Depression Allies

Depression Allies:

We live in a "Prozac nation" with about 20 million adult Americans or 10% of the population suffering from a mood disorder in any given year.*

We've seen our friends get depressed and not known how to help, or not felt invited to help. We've been depressed ourselves and needed help, but did not always know how to ask for it. Sometimes when we’d hear someone say “I need help” we’d feel overwhelmed. What should help look like? What kind of help can someone give?

In our experience we’ve seen small bits lead to change: a phone call, a yoga buddy, someone to be accountable to, someone to check in with, a gratitude partner. All of these can be simple and small but they have great potential to repel the depressed state. They make us allies and show we care.

“Asking for help” is particularly important, difficult, and challenging when you are depressed. We want to make both the "ask" and the response easier, less overwhelming.

What a request might look like

It's hard to ask for help. This isn't an emergency. I've been struggling with depression for a long time, and am asking for a bit of help from my friends. When I've had friends who needed help, I often don't know what to do. So I wrote down some things that would really help me. I hope many of these are mutual:

☐ Meditation buddy. Every week or two, I'd like to meditate. I have troubles motivating to do this on my own. Local to Berkeley.
☐ Try out superbetter health-challenge app.
☐ Feedback on the book I'm writing. I hope it's worth reading, just want feedback!
☐ Co-working buddy from cafes or my house.
☐ Fasting partner. Some week, I'd like to do something like a juice fast, ideally with a co-working buddy.
☐ 6-month check in on games

Our work will divide into two main sections: (1) focus on the pragmatics of a "project management system" for a person fighting depression and their support network. This will involve programming tools so people can sign up to be an exercise buddy or a check-in partner, and then get reminder emails, or communication tools for the support group to divide up tasks. (2) a focus on therapeutic needs, and on communications: how do you ask for help, how do you describe depression so that non-depressed people can help? We need writers, nvc experts, therapists. Yes, if someone has a big heart but poor listening skills, we want to bring them in!

Creating the Team:

Edit: starting from scratch, ideas below are years old — how would you do this?

We're bootstrapping this! We plan to start by going to weekend hackathons during July and the first weekend of August, then the founders will start working part-time. We may make money, or find grants, but won't find out what the options are until we get started. Do you want to join us? We're at the ground floor: joining now makes you a full partner, and likely makes the difference between whether this amazing but unusual idea has enough people-power to become a reality. So far one of the founders is a Drupal developer, so we have the web skills we need, but if you can lead development in another technology that frees the founder to play a CEO role. We'd like to form a team of people who can contribute in a mix of:

- project & team manager, start helping lead teams at a hackathons;
- web dev;
- app dev;
- design, UI, UX;
- therapy area expertise, and outreach to therapist world;
- area expert who learns about every other app and many books in our space, most of which we will connect people to rather than compete;
- someone who will become our expert on communications: setting boundaries, making requests that are easy to hear, guilt-minimizing, action-maximizing;
- content, marketing, blogging, SEO expert;
- business expert to help chart a course to monetizing and scaling the project;
- and of course, most important, "the intern" who really gets everything done.

We're also seeking a somewhat large advisory team. Can you make regular skype meetings, or show up in Berkeley?

Sample Intro:

It might look something like this, I expect many flavors people can choose from and re-write:
~"I'm struggling, and I need help, but I don't need you to freak out: this is what depression means for me, and these concrete steps are what I need from my friends."~

Next Steps:

Come to a hackathon -- like the AngelHack on July 19 and 20 or Health & Wellness in SF the first weekend in August -- spend a weekend and see if we like working together!?

* There are many different depression statistics; we're just starting Depression Allies and not yet sure the exact niche anyway. Likely the tools envisioned so far will be especially powerful for dysthymia: long-running but not overwhelming variants of depression.