Startup Founder Uses His Own Struggle with Suicide to Help Shape New Mental Health Support App

When I was 20 years old, I struggled with depression and suicide. On the surface, nobody would have guessed. I was going to school, had some good career prospects, a seemingly fulfilling social life…but I was silently suffering. Every day I contemplated whether or not continuing to live was worth it.

I just didn’t see the point, to live in so much pain with no hope for it to change…I didn’t know what to do, I never had experienced these feelings before, and I’d never talked about them with anyone.

(You can watch me explain that here in my TEDx talk)

I’m lucky though. I got help.

However, not everyone is so lucky. In the United States, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million, or 18.5% — experiences mental illness in a given year and not everyone gets treatment.

In one study, only 57% of employees with symptoms of major depression said they had received mental health treatment in the previous 12 months.

Of those in treatment, fewer than half — about 42% — were receiving treatment considered adequate. 70% of people who seek mental health care also drop out after their first or second visit.

Researchers who analyzed employee responses to a 2009 WHO questionnaire found that workers with depression reported the equivalent of 27 lost work days per year — nine of them because of sick days or other time taken out of work, and another 18 reflecting lost productivity.

Australian Commissioner Chris Burns estimates more than $30 billion was lost in productivity in Australia each year from mental health complications.

What can we do?

Mental health is shrouded in stigma, it can be challenging to know what services are appropriate, where to go, or how to engage with the correct treatment.

I struggled reaching out for help. I didn’t feel there was anyone who I could safely connect with and explore these dark thoughts…I also didn’t know what services were available or appropriate for me.

That’s why we created Marbles.

Marbles Log In Screen

Marbles iOS and android apps offer free 24/7 peer mental health support.

Think of it like anonymous, online group therapy with a few more bells and whistles.

We’ve created a virtual community for anyone to access anonymous support and constructive conversation about mental and emotional health challenges, 100% troll and stigma free.

Here’s how it’s done

There are 4 main components to Marbles: Reflect, Trends, Posts, & Connect.

Marbles Reflect, Trends, Posts, and Connect Screens

Users develop self-awareness by periodically recording how they are feeling using our short, 7-question Reflection to get a snapshot of how they are doing. So far we have nearly 40,000 data points on our users mental and emotional health from Reflections that have been completed!

In the Trends, users can then see their results change over time to visualize what decisions help and what hurt their mental and emotional health.

Then, they can anonymously discuss with other users in our 
Posts section to get help with whatever they are struggling with. Some recently shared Posts are:

“i’m so stressed…and i just want to end it all…i’ve thought about ending it, but haven’t done it. what do i do? i don’t feel like i’m really needed here..”
“ick I compare myself to others so frequently…I wonder how much of my life i’ve wasted doing that and feeling sorry for who I am. No more”
“Anyone else have a really unhealthy nervous habit? I do….I just can’t stop, more scars, more anxiety…”

Log on to Marbles to catch the community’s amazingly genuine and thoughtful responses — all of which are 100% troll and stigma-free.

Instead of people struggling on their own with these thoughts like I did, users now have access to a supportive community of peers who have been through similar experiences and won’t judge one another.

Most of our conversations in the Posts happen late at night and early in the morning, when users feel most vulnerable and isolated. So far over 1,000 conversations have occurred on Marbles!

Marbles creates a healthy environment to explore non-crisis challenges that are common to every person’s life such as relationship complications, trouble with identity, negative thoughts, suicidal ideation, and more.

Marbles is not supposed to be used as an alternative for ongoing professional health services or crisis intervention. It has been developed to address acute episodic stress and adverse mental health events.

Finally, through the Connect screen, users can find other mental health resources if they are searching for some more high-touch and/or professional services. We can even customize these resources for your unique users so your featured resources into the hands of the most vulnerable people and you can prevent adverse mental health events.

What can you do?

Do you want to bring an innovative and accessible mental health solution to your workforce or members?

In addition to offering your populations a virtual mental health safety net, you can improve your mental health outreach, engagement, and outcomes by partnering with Marbles Analytics to gain deep understanding of the real-time mental and emotional health trends of your workers or members.

We are gathering valuable aggregate mental and emotional health data from our users that could help you better meet their mental and emotional health needs while still protecting users identity and never exposing individual data.

Figure 2: Marbles Analytics Summary of University of Minnesota student mental health as of Oct 9, 2016

The Marbles Analytics web portal gives you the power to dig into the data. You can sort and query this valuable Reflection data by demographic information such as year in at employment or school, age, gender, race, and sexual orientation to visualize the real-time mental and emotional health trends for different pockets of people!

Customize your mental and emotional health outreach and engagement strategy, powered by Marbles Analytics.

Do you care about having healthy and productive employees or members? Do you want to offer the best 21st Century mental health support solution Marbles for your organization?

Contact for more information or to explore partnerships and pilots!

Thank you

-Adam @thatmhg

p.s. We are in the process of running a University-sponsored academic study about the effectiveness of Marbles on reducing student depression and anxiety. To get involved or hear preliminary results, contact Adam!

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