Mental health problems aren’t new, but we are on the cusp of a wave in needs at the college and professional levels. In K-12, suicide screenings are up 300%. Colleges are seeing a spike in demand for psychological services. Employers and insurance companies are beginning to bear the brunt of those therapy costs. This means we’ll have to either spend more on mental health, or get more tactical in how we spend.
Right now, spending is largely used on putting out fires. Hospitalizations and therapy are time-sensitive and necessary, but they fail to address root causes.
Schools seem to have two main options for preventive education. One, build a curriculum themselves, which is complicated and requires a professor or owner. Two, they can cobble together existing one-off resources: EverFi or JED for suicide prevention, Headspace for meditation, blog posts, videos. When you visit the wellness websites of most colleges, as I have over the last eighteen months, this seems to be the path most have chosen.
The problem is, even after all the hard work schools put in, students I speak with barely use these resources. Same goes for companies. A friend once sent me her Big Four company’s wellness page, found only while “looking for the lunch menu.”
What if I could solve that for you? What if I could give young adults something delightful to use, convenient, and comprehensive? What if we could address daily anxieties, poor decisions, lack of direction, painful breakups, and bitter politics, all before they pile up into real harm? What if we could cover all US colleges so that we have a common literacy for friends to help one another?
For faculty, this could save you time. For schools, resources. And for students? I don’t want to wait until that hospitalization occurs, or a breakup or assault makes someone drop out of school. I want students to be grounded and introspective daily and take this course seriously with a proper incentive. That’s what I think can save lives.
I’ll share with you some insights gathered from students.
First, most students don't even visit wellness websites. Second, when they do, a maze of links, blogs, and videos makes for further frustration. But perhaps most important is concern around privacy. Yes, counselors are experiencing record demand. But, there’s also another segment of your student population that refuses to go to the school counselor, afraid they’re going to be put on some watch list, or just not comfortable opening up. That’s a segment with which I identify.
The LIFE App is designed to address these experiences. Short and to-the-point, we are no-BS, private and mobile, capturing a segment of your student body most unlikely to seek help, and quite frankly, often most likely to need it. For those who wish, LIFE can be completed solo. For those seeking community, peer-to-peer support is a friendly face in a tech-enabled world.
I asked schools a similar question. How can I help you? They told me: We want something comprehensive, but with so many departments and stakeholders, it's difficult to reach consensus. We also don’t have a way of tracking return on investment.
The LIFE App strives to solve these problems. We made the curriculum so you don’t have to build one from scratch. As a third party, we preserve student privacy while giving you aggregate data to show pre/post assessment outcomes and mood improvement. This is important not just for you, but eventually, for employers who hire out of your university.
Enter a fourth party. As companies seek out new hires, they’ll begin to look for the seal of LIFE completion, and can rest assured your students are well-prepared for the workforce.
This last piece is crucial. Why? College is a formative experience. It’s the foundation for a person’s worldview. When your students graduate, they carry your brand. The hope is that your investment in them will prepare the next generation of socially-conscious leaders.
This is near and dear to my heart. I’m almost 30 years old, and when I ask professionals what they wish they’d learned in school, some clear patterns emerge.
One, students who excelled in school might follow directions well, but fail to set and lead their own agendas, something essential in today’s entrepreneurial world. Two, relationships are the number-one cause for anxiety in almost every age demographic. I’m baffled we wait until marriage counseling to learn about things like attachment styles or how to resolve conflict. And finally, the idea we should leave problems at the office door needs to be reconsidered. Today’s generation blends work and life. That involves dealing with problems that are both personal and professional.
If colleges are seeing the wave now, companies will feel that tsunami four years later. The time to start isn’t then, it’s now. Because with all the talk about corporate culture, leadership, or #metoo, there’s no doubt that many professionals could already benefit from a program like LIFE.
For companies, just as for schools, the LIE app is a preventive measure. It can save them from, at the most innocuous level, lethargy, and at the most serious level, liability.
The more that companies care, the more the startups, tech titans, investment banks and consultancies look for the LIFE seal of completion, the more students will care. They’ll complete exercises, perform at work, and set a strong impression, so those companies come back to hire more and more at the schools that offer the LIFE app. This creates a positive feedback loop.
My hope is that we stop the negative cycle here, and start a positive one.
Will you start where you are?
The problem we’re trying to tackle today is tough. I can’t sit here and tell you this will for sure work. But I also know that what drives me to work on the LIFE app is that I couldn’t sit still at a lucrative career, knowing that every day I didn’t work on LIFE, I’m letting someone down. If the alternative is doing nothing, well, we have to try something. I’d like to think: As a nation, if we can put a man on the moon, we ought to be able to help him, right here on earth.
I hope you’ll join me on this mission.