SEATTLE — Imagine if your smartwatch could help you through a panic attack. That could soon become a reality thanks to students at the University of Washington.

The winner of this year's Neural Engineering Tech Studio at the University of Washington (UW) is an app called PanicAway, a program that aims to help users cope with panic attacks. 

The team behind the app found unlikely inspiration in their professor's teenage son, who has suffered from panic attacks since he was in the seventh grade. 

With his input, the team was able to create an app that monitors users' heart rate to determine when they are in a state of panic. At that point, the app prompts the user with a number of coping mechanisms that can help them get through it, like videos from their therapist or deep-breathing exercises. 

"Basically they can choose what they would need in that moment," said Rachel Tessem, one of the students on the team.

"A panic attack is really a more sudden and intense feeling of fear but that often can be a silent fear," Tessem said. "There's such a large stigma against mental health problems, but also if someone does get offered help they might not get the exact help they need in that moment." That's when PanicAway can help.

Now the winning team has resources from UW to bring their product to market and impact people's lives. 

If you or somebody you know is in a crisis and needs help, you can call the numbers below. 

  • 24-HOUR CRISIS LINE: 866-4-CRISIS (866-427-4747)
  • Teen Link: 866-833-6546 - (EVENINGS 6-10pm). Callers can talk with trained teens.

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