You:Flourish Is Crafting an App to Care for LGBTQ+ Mental-Health Needs
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When the U.S. went into lockdown in March of 2020, many Americans found themselves grappling with depression, isolation and other emotions that inspired them to seek mental health counseling.
The country’s behavioral healthcare system, however, was unprepared for such increased demand, and many found it difficult to book an appointment. For LGBTQ+ individuals, it’s even more difficult to find a therapist who is specifically trained to address social stigmas and other issues specific to the LGBTQ+ community.
Steven Haden noticed this difficulty first-hand in his attempts to find a therapist who could relate to his experience as a gay man.
After feeling burnt out by his work as a management consultant and communications strategist in Washington, D.C. and New York City, he earned a master’s degree in social work, moved to Denver and worked as a mental health counselor. There, he again noticed therapists who list LGBTQ+ as an area of specialty on their websites are not always trained in providing affirming mental health care.
“The research tells us that, in the absence of specific training to work with marginalized populations, including LGBTQ folks, you’re not going to have the full benefit of understanding what it’s like to live in a world where there’s harassment, bullying and microaggressions happening at every turn,” Haden said.
In 2018, he co-founded Envision:You, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to affirming care for the LGBTQ+ community. The organization has trained more than 1,000 providers to provide mental health care for the LGBTQ+ community. It has also collaborated with the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health and the Butler Institute at the University of Denver to provide training and education to the parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth.
During the pandemic, Envision:You surveyed LGBTQ+ individuals and found that many were struggling to find meaningful connections and support.
To address that need, Haden launched You:Flourish. The app, which is still in development, will provide LGBTQ+ individuals with a directory of counselors trained in caring for the LGBTQ+ community. The counselors are vetted by a 15-minute questionnaire designed by a team of researchers and academics, Haden said.
Users of the app will be able to access the directory for free. For an additional $4 per month, users will have access to a library of wellness content and resources, as well as a portal for individuals to connect with each other.
“If you think of, like, a Black trans woman in Alabama who’s struggling with depression, she’ll be able to go on the app, find other people with that shared identity and struggle and start to build a community of people that can offer that mutual aid, which is incredibly powerful to a person’s recovery and sense of connection,” Haden said.
The You:Flourish app has been under development for the past seven months by AppIt Ventures, a Colorado-based software development firm. Haden said the app should be ready for beta testing later this year, with a public launch slated for March.
Although the mental health tech space is increasingly crowded, Haden said a competitive marketplace analysis conducted by the National Mental Health Innovation Center found that no other companies are providing a vetted counselor directory, wellness content and conversation space designed for and by the LGBTQ+ community.
“There are directories, and there are places to find wellness content, but you’re not going to find all of that in one place,” Haden said. “You’re not going to find the kind of clinically-rigorous, evidence-based programming that you’ll find on this app.”
You:Flourish has raised over $300,000 in seed funding, and Haden said he hopes to raise another $2 million through angel investors and a crowdfunding campaign, which launched Wednesday.