Stigma prevents those of us living with a mental illness from connecting with others who can relate to the challenges we face on a daily basis. Peer to peer communication is desperately needed in the mental health community. We have so many resources online to gather information, but we lack the resources to communicate with one another.
I attended a patient advocacy conference in Chicago this past Spring where I met the team from the app Wisdo. They were taking footage of individuals sharing their experience living with various health conditions, including mental disorders. I downloaded the app, spoke with the CEO and co-founder of Wisdo and felt it could be a helpful resource for those living with mental illness.
What Is Wisdo?
Wisdo is an app that connects individuals through shared experience in a peer to peer chat. It’s motto is “Learn from people who have been there.” It is a structured platform for people to build authentic connections with others facing similar challenges.
How It Works?
You create your profile similar to other social media apps. You can share as much as information as you would like about your experience to help you connect with other users.
Join a Wisdo group or groups which include: Depression, Anxiety, Relationships, Body Image, LGBTQ+ Groups, Motherhood, Bipolar, Breast Cancer, Getting Motivated, Sexual Assault, Chronic Pain, Autism and many more!
After your profile is set up, you can start exploring the app and connecting and communicating with your peers.
A ‘Wisdo Guide’ is another peer who has experience with the app and joins the chat to help guide the community. It is important to note that a Wisdo Guide is not a licensed professional, and if you are in need of medical attention they cannot provide you with that information.
How It Started?
I had the privilege of speaking with co-founder and CEO of Wisdo, Boaz Gaon. I wanted to know more about the app, how it worked and who was behind it before sharing it with my followers. He was more than willing to speak with me. It begins with his father, Benny Gaon, a successful businessman in Israel as well as a philanthropist who believed in human connections. He was the President of the Israel Cancer Association and very involved with the people of his community. Unfortunately, Benny Gaon was diagnosed with kidney cancer and eventually passed away from CLL, a form of leukemia.
Boaz, like any person who has lost a family member or friend to cancer, struggled with his father’s death. He had no problem finding medical and clinical information about the disease, however little to no information about what it’s like being a cancer family or how to deal with grief after losing someone to cancer? A doctor can give you medical advice, but they cannot genuinely grasp what you are going through if they have not been in your shoes. Boaz published a 12,000-word article sharing his thoughts. When the article was published, it exploded, and Boaz received 5,000 phone calls, emails and text messages from people who were going through a similar situation.
Boaz realized that the missing piece of the puzzle was wisdom. Connecting to your peers who can relate to your experience and give helpful advice in a structured way. After it’s launch in the Summer of 2016 Wisdo has quickly grown as a groundbreaking app.
One of my biggest concerns that I addressed with Boaz pertained to its safety. He made it clear that there is a no tolerance policy for bullying and it is closely monitored. The people at Wisdo are committed to making this app a safe place for individuals to communicate and build lifelong connections with others.
When we are suffering it is rare to think about others; however, Boaz used the challenges he faced after his father’s death to build a platform which provides the resources he needed during a difficult period of his life. I guess the apple does not fall from the tree, being his father was an advocate for human connections.
Why Do I Believe in Wisdo?
I wake up around 5 AM every morning to answer messages in my inbox from people who are in need of peer support. I love building these connections, however, day by day more messages come in and I have realized that I will not be able to give people the support they deserve at some point, which is something that really concerns me. We feel misunderstood and fear the judgment that comes with being open about mental health.
Let’s be honest, you cannot truly understand what it is like to live with a mental illness unless you live with a mental illness. One of the biggest turning points in my life that helped me accept my diagnosis of bipolar 2 disorder was when I connected with my peers. Imagine you had a safe place where you could connect with other people dealing with the same issues you are facing while also helping others. I believe Wisdo is the start of these types of conversations. It changes your life when you are able to have conversations that matter with people who can relate to you. It may not work for some but I believe it will work for many. It’s a community based off authentic and meaningful connections with other people who understand us, and that is a gift. Follow Wisdo on FaceBook.
For more mental health content, follow me @hannahdblum