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Huddle, peer-to-peer support app for mental illness: Interview (Includes interview and first-hand account)

The primary aim of Huddle is to break down conventional perspectives of how people are “supposed” to get help for mental illnesses like depression, addiction, stress, self-image and anxiety. The Huddle app establishes a community of real people, talking about real things, ready to connect and support one another on any topic.

To launch the app, the co-founders Tyler Faux and Dan Blackman raised a $1.2 million seed round led by Thrive Capital and the finished version of the app was launched in October 2017. To find ou more Digital Journal spoke with Dan Blackman.

Huddle  mental health app

Huddle, mental health app

Digital Journal: How does mental health affect the U.S. population? What patterns have you noted?

Dan Blackman: Undiagnosed mental health issues of all kinds are on the rise in the US. Huddle is focused on is creating new pathways towards treatment. We feel that traditional pathways to getting help for average Americans are broken. We hope that creating a safe social place on the internet for people to talk openly and learn from one another will be a great first step for anyone dealing with a mental health issue.

DJ: How important is Mental Health Week and what are the key messages for the general public and for policy makers?

Blackman: I feel Mental Health Week is extremely important as it helps make light, normalize, and encourages people to talk more about mental health issues openly.

DJ: Please explain about Huddle and what the main aims are?

Blackman: Our aims are simple — we want to create a safe, social space on the internet for people to talk openly, share, and learn from one another, with a focus on mental health issues.

DJ: Is Huddle applicable for any specific types of mental health issues?

Blackman: I believe all sorts, but in the beginning, most of our users have been focused on stress, anxiety, addiction, depression and identity.

DJ: How do you define ‘on demand support’? What does this mean in practice?

Blackman: “On demand” is really just emphasizing that there is always someone from the Huddle community online and ready to talk.

DJ: What were the key challenges when developing Huddle?

Blackman: We wanted to make sure that our product felt human and it brought all of the positives from in-person peer to peer support groups to a mobile device. We knew that in order to recreate that experience, our platform needed to be video based. We also knew that not everyone might be comfortable with video, especially people talking about an issue for the first time. So, our solution was to allow users to pixelate their videos as little or a much as they want, depending on their comfort level.

DJ: Did you enlist medical professionals to advise during the development process?

Blackman: Since the beginning, both my partner Tyler Faux and I talked to a number of health professionals, therapists, youth centers, and social workers. Overwhelmingly, the idea of Huddle was received positively and created out of conversations with these groups.

DJ: The design of Huddle is important, how did you end up with the final design?

Blackman: We wanted to make sure that we were creating an optimistic experience and that the design would feel uplifting, simple, and celebratory for any time of user.

DJ: What has been the reception from medical professionals?

Blackman: Overwhelmingly positive reactions.

DJ: How has the general public reacted?

Blackman: Great! Since launch we have seen thousands of users join the community with dozens of community created support groups get started. We are seeing users work with one another, learn from one another, form friendships, and generally feel like they are apart of something real.

Huddle provides a safe space to access on-demand support for depression, addiction, bipolar disorders, LGBT, grief and loss, parenting stress, college stress, self-image, anxiety and other conditions. The Huddle app is available to iOS users worldwide in English. Huddle is based in New York City, U.S.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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