Juggling between homework, working on my part time job and searching for a full time sums up my life. As I try to balance my life, there are slumps when I wished I had someone to vent out my frustrations to. But then, everyone is so busy that no one has time for anyone. If a friend has time to talk to you, can I be sure that they won’t judge you for having this super awkward conversation which no one wants to talk about? I can not be sure about this. I wished to have someone to talk outside my peer group, hopefully immediately without scheduling an appointment and without getting judged will provide a bit of support when I needed it the most.
After talking to my peers, I found out that I was not alone. A major portion of undergraduates and graduate students alike report mental stress or related issues because of increasing workloads. As they combat these mental and emotional stress, they want an outlet to vent out their feelings without being judged by their peers. Campus resources are inadequate as they are coupled with long waits. Students have to wait for weeks before making an appointment with the campus psychological services. During these wait times, if the issues are not solved, they get exacerbated.
This was when I was came across 7 Cups. 7 Cups is an on-demand emotional health and well-being service that connects people anonymously with trained listeners. By using this service, people can
- talk to someone who will not know them
- talk to groups of people anonymously who have faced the same problem regulated by a listener.
- talk on various topics ranging from mental disorders to daily activities like College Life.
- can get some help when they are waiting to be counselled by a professional counselor.
The ability to talk to people about various stress sources / mental disorders was incredibly useful. To validate my hypothesis that the application might be useful, I tried it a couple of times and spoke to a listener. I felt lighter and better after our conversation. So, I spoke to various students around the campus and see what they felt about handling stress. Out of the 18 students I spoke to, I received at least 3 or more students who shared that having an outlet will be useful.
[…]the times when I can’t get over the hump on my own, I wish I had someone there to give me just the motivation I needed.
It would be nice to talk to people, but maybe not here
“Sleep helps, talking to people helps, putting things in perspective also helps.”
Help yourself section
7 cups also provides a set of resources for its users when they do not want to talk to anyone but are looking for specific strategies or resources that can help them manage their problems on their own.
The Help Yourself section provides
- a set of exercises that the users can use for self improvement
- forums where they can ask questions
- self-help guides that students can refer when they want to
7 cups has customized portals that identifies the needs of specific communities. Identifying their needs is important as different communities will have different problems. Couples running households will have different problems and invariably face stress in a different form than teenagers. While the categories address that, 7 cups of Tea has extended the same notion beyond categories and come with customized portals.
They have launched a customized portal for startups where startups can talk to list for listeners who are trained to listen to entrepreneurs. Along with that, they have customized resources where they can look for help that can improve their daily lives, relationships with families and friends across.
Directly quoted from their website, we find that even when entrepreneurs go through depression and other problems.
The ups and down of startups are often compared to a roller coaster. The downs can be really rough. Talking to others who have gone through what you are going through can really help. – JESSICA LIVINGSTON, Partner, Y Combinator
Most of my life I have struggled with depression. I’ve written about it, talked about it, coached and listed to others fighting with it. It’s a horrible isolating and debilitating condition. – Zak Homuth, Co-Founder & CEO, Upvert
My wish – Customized portals for Universities
Over the past few months, I have spoken to over 30 students by conducting formal interviews or randomly surveying them in the hallways, I have realized that there is an urgent need, and universities create a unique environment that contribute to stress for students. Having customized portals for universities can go a long way in helping students combat daily emotional and mental sources of stress.
Research at the University of Michigan suggests that different student population react differently to stress. A study led by Prof. Daniel Eisenberg, approximately one-third of college students experience a mental health issue at some point. However, only 10 percent of student athletes with depression or anxiety take advantage of mental health resources – as compared to 30 percent of students overall. Students at campuses often face different kind of stress that can be because of their academics, gender, sexual orientation, race etc.
Repeatedly, from the user interviews I conducted, I found that students needed an outlet to share their feelings. Customized portals for Universities will not only make listeners aware of the issues at the University, but will also help them tailor their conversational skills for the community groups. Additionally, universities can provide more training opportunities for students who are enrolled in their Social Work program to make them better future counselors.
Not only does it makes sense for 7 Cups to have separate portals for Universities, research shows that it makes business sense for Universities to trial run new emotional well being and mental wellness services. A revenue model developed by Prof. Eisenberg shows the potential loss for students who drop out of college because of stress and the loss in revenues. The example table at the end of the post shows that student productivity is lost valued at $3,125,000. The university fails to make an additional $ 1,562,500 revenue per year because of students dropping out.
There are other products like Breakthrough which provide confidential counselling, however 7 Cups differentiates themselves from other competitors by
- Pricing their product for free and opening up premium features at a very low cost (7.99$ / month for a year’s package).
- They provide active listening services and in no way a replacement to real counselling. The listeners are explicitly asked to not give advice, prescribe medicines to their clients and refer their clients to a counselor / psychiatrist in such cases.
On a concluding note, I find 7 cups a very interesting product in an interesting space, and is trying to solve a much needed problem that is often not realized or talked about in public spaces. By leveraging technology, 7 Cups can potentially change a lot of interactions in the mental health community. Despite all of the positives, products like 7 Cups should be used with a pinch of salt. Users might not realize and start seeing their listeners as mental health providers. In this process, the users might start avoiding mental health providers and their issues can get worse. 7 Cups and other services should make it exceedingly clear that they are not professional mental health providers but an individualized support system where they provide help to their users. Coupling these services with professional counselors and mental health providers can go a long way. Services like 7 Cups can provide a stand-by when users wait to seek help from experts.
- Example Table (ref from Prof. Eisenberg’s revenue model)
- Thanks to Nick Sands and Mitchell Boldin from School of Information, University of Michigan who helped me with the user interviews.
- This blog post is part of the application process for KPCB Product Fellows
- This blog post was posted on Indian Standard Time.
- I will be working with 7 Cups over the next 2.5 months to test their products at the University of Michigan as a Product Management Intern. The research has been done independently and has no association with 7 Cups.