There are billions of people who have sub-optimal mental wellbeing. Still, the self-help tools available to them are not helping. That’s it, that’s the problem, and it’s a big one. Let me explain.
There are billions of people whose level of wellbeing significantly impacts their quality of life and their opportunities in life. Around two billion of these people have poor mental wellbeing. For these people, life is a real struggle and often highly disabling. Then there are further three to four billion people who are just ‘ok’. These people aren’t mentally unwell, but they are far from thriving or flourishing. Life is just a drag for these people, kind of ‘meh’.
So we have at least four to five billion people who could be doing much better if they had help. Broadly speaking, help can come in two ways; they can get help from professionals such as counsellors and psychologists, or they can use self-help tools such as apps. To get professional help, you either need to have money that very few have or be in critical need. There is a massive under-supply of professional support, which is unlikely to change for a long time, if ever.
So now we come to self-help tools; these come in the form of online resources and apps. Have you used any of these? How effective do you think they are at helping those in need? Well, it may surprise you to learn that they are not very effective at all. I experienced this first-hand while I was recovering from a mental breakdown. In search of a way to help myself get better, I tried a wide range of apps, and I found none worked for me. So why didn’t they work? Well, for me, I just didn’t connect with what the app was asking me to do. It felt like there was a big disconnect between what I really needed and what the app was offering.
After I recovered, I pondered why these apps hadn’t worked for me and wondered what it would take to make an app that was more appealing and relevant. In my research, I uncovered some quite shocking data. It turns out that the digital mental health industry is a multibillion-dollar industry with practically zero proof of efficacy. Just go and google “efficacy of mental health apps” and you’ll see what I mean. There are numerous research studies, one involving ~50,000 test participants, that find practically zero evidence that any of these apps help. It was with this knowledge I felt something needed to be done.
When designing a product, it’s essential to understand who you are designing for and the problems you are trying to solve or the gains you are trying to make. This is something I have known very well as most of my life, I have worked in user-centred product design where a vital part of the design process is customer research.
So, to solve the problem, I wanted to know why existing apps do not work. After a great deal of reviewing academic research and talking to people directly, I had a much clearer picture of the problem. The core finding was that people simply do not want to use these apps for three main reasons:
- They are unpleasant to use. People find these apps bland, mundane and sometimes overly demanding. Consequently, people find it hard to get motivated to use these apps.
- Difficult to find time or space. Mental health and wellness are very private, and it’s not easy to find a time or space where people feel comfortable using these apps. Even something simple like meditation needs time out of your day, and people prefer to practice it in private.
- No results. People just do not feel any improvements after using the apps for a sustained period.
So what is the impact of these problems on app usage? Well, I dug into the numbers, and I was frankly astonished. According to numerous studies (I’ll put some links below), a whopping 98% of mental health apps are deleted within the first fifteen days. And then a further 50% are deleted in the next 15 days. What do you think about this? I find it shocking. This means, at best, these apps are helping 1% of those in need.
So let’s re-iterate the problem outlined at the beginning. There are billions of people who have sub-optimal mental wellbeing. Still, the self-help tools available to them are not helping. So our goal is to give these people a tool that does work.
When we set out to solve the problem, we gave ourselves the following goals.
- Has an enjoyable experience that makes people look forward to using it.
- It can be used anytime and anywhere, even while working or studying.
- Creates measurable improvements in wellbeing predictably and sustainably.
This is what we set out to achieve, and this is what we have done. For the last year, we’ve been testing EverYellow with all kinds of people from all walks of life, and we really couldn’t be happier with the feedback we have received. Of course, we get told many different stories about how EverYellow is helping people. But the common and somewhat unexpected feedback we receive is that people quickly experience a noticeable shift. They describe a feeling that something has shifted inside of them, giving them the sense that something good has happened and that they are now on the right path.
Alan Cox, Creator of EverYellow