Thanks to the advancement of technology, we have never been more connected. But regardless of our online friends and followers, 86 per cent of Millennials admit to feeling lonely and depressed, while 18 to 24 year olds are statistically four times more likely to suffer from loneliness than those aged 70 and over.
‘Generation lonely’ is fast on its way to becoming an epidemic, as entrepreneur Jeremy Fischbach can attest. “Despite having a large network of caring family and friends, I found those people weren’t always available at the specific moments when I needed to talk the most, and even when they were it could be hard to admit I was struggling to people who knew me so well,” admits Jeremy.
Wouldn’t it be great, the Princeton psychology graduate thought, if there was always someone on the other end of the phone to offer compassion and encouragement whenever you needed it? With that, the seed of the idea for Happy – an app that promises to provide emotional support from extraordinary people at the click of a button – was planted.
After assembling a core team made up of fellow Princeton graduates, all bringing the desired blend of psychology, community building or consumer app launch experience to the table, Happy is now ready to launch within the US this year.
However, unlike other apps, such as Talkspace that grants you an audience with a licensed therapist, Happy caters for those among us reluctant to open up to professionals. Instead, Happy connects people to “extraordinary” everyday people they dub ‘Happy Givers’. “Our belief is that the experience of talking to a stranger about personal problems in a less-threatening and stigmatised setting may help people who truly need therapy become more open to speaking about their problems with a clinician,” explains Jeremy.
It’s important to point out that Jeremy doesn’t recommend using Happy instead of therapy, but would like think that the two might work on conjunction with each other. “We see Happy as a potential complement to therapy, providing a source of more frequent and more easily accessible support to people who can only afford to see their therapist once a week or every other week,” he says, pointing out that there are currently 40 million Americans suffering from loneliness and a further 50 million suffering from stress. “Many of these people do not need or would not qualify for more intensive clinical therapy, but nonetheless need much more attention, compassion, and encouragement than they are currently getting,” explains Jeremy.
So, does Happy really have the potential to change the way we seek therapy? “The future of behavioural health is community-based, data driven and harnessing the tremendous power of genuine human connection to improve peoples’ well being,” predicts Jeremy, who hopes to roll out the app globally within the next five years. “We really believe that Happy is something that almost everyone could benefit from at some point in their lives,” he concludes. “Emotional support is a basic human need – we all need attention, compassion, and encouragement in order to thrive.”
Looking for other ways to cultivate happiness? Here’s how the Bhutanese do it.