Everyone struggles with something. For me, it was anxiety, addiction and imposter syndrome. For a long time, I was afraid to seek help because I was worried about what others would think of me and how they'd react since I was extremely functional in all facets of my life. I ultimately healed myself and transformed my life over several years through mediation, nutrition, radical candor, sleep, exercise and positivity. I also turned to a variety of support communities which were a huge source of strength, meaningful relationships and perspective. I credit much of my transformation to these groups. There's no way I could have improved my mental health all by myself.
That's why I was excited to meet Tyler Faux and Dan Blackman of Huddle. They shared their plans to build a video-based peer-to-peer support network and change how the world communicates about mental health issues. They explained their product would have public and private channels for people to engage about the things in life they are dealing with. They also explained, that Huddle will allow people to be anonymous or themselves so they can engage however they're most comfortable. In that moment, I wished I had access to this product many years ago when I struggling but wanted help. I was also captivated by their mission of breaking down conventional perspectives of how people are supposed to get help by creating a community of real people, talking about real things, supporting one another.
As they were describing their product and vision, I believed millions of people would potentially see the value in a digital peer-to-peer support network. Support groups are incredibly effective but haven't evolved in decades. There are more than 500,000 offline support groups in the U.S. alone. At any given time, more than 6.5 million Americans engage in these groups. They have numerous benefits including accountability, perspective, community, emotional support, service, mentorship and empowerment. Despite these benefits, support groups today tend to be antiquated, fragmented, geographically limited, infrequent, offline, stigmatized and difficult to discover. That's why I felt there was a real need to modernize these therapeutic communities.
Support groups exist for good reason. 44 million Americans struggled with mental illness in 2016 but more than 60% didn't seek treatment. That doesn't even include those who are impacted such as family, friends and co-workers. People seek help for many life situations such as addiction, depression, death, illness, PTSD, body image, eating disorders, obesity, divorce and many more. The more I thought about the problem and the need, Huddle seemed to be a potentially appealing solution that could transcend race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and boarders.
And let's be honest: traditional social media isn't helping this problem. In fact, one could make the argument that networks like Facebook are only making the problem worse despite their best efforts. Additionally, most people aren't comfortable broadcasting their problems to family, friends and co-workers due to stigma, fear of being judged and potential negative consequences both personally and professionally. One could also make the argument, that people aren't comfortable seeing other's struggles in their social feeds. A void seems to exist in the world.
That's why I'm thrilled to share that Huddle is now a reality. I'm also thrilled to share that I'll be playing a small role in the company as an advisor. As you can probably tell, mental health is an incredibly important cause for me and I believe that digital tools like Huddle can be a significant part of the solution. The app launches today so anyone with an iPhone can join the community, get strength from others or lend your support to those in need. You can download it here. While the community is just getting started, I believe digital peer-to-peer support groups will be the norm in the next decade.
Life is hard, messy and unpredictable. Every single one of us or people that we love are struggling with something whether it’s depression, divorce, anxiety, addiction, fear, anger, resentment and / or imposter syndrome. Instead of grandstanding on social media (of which I’m guilty of myself), why not embrace our imperfections? Why not start an internal or external dialogue about what’s really going on in our lives. The impact would be massive. Here’s a big secret: when you speak openly about your challenges it gives others the strength to do the same. I realize it’s frightening but the rewards are boundless. We can start to relate to one another. We can support each other. We can heal each other. That to me is way more powerful and beautiful than pretending everything is perfect.