On confessional sites like Whisper, Yik Yak and Secret, where everything from gossip to flirting flourishes under the cover of anonymity, sometimes users feel comfortable confessing their darkest secrets. For site managers, the toughest to handle are the ones about suicide.
Whisper alone has referred more than 40,000 users to suicide hotlines.
With a $1 million donation from Whisper founders Michael Heyward and Brad Brooks, the company is launching a nonprofit site for emotional help, called YourVoice, on Thursday.
“It’s a need we couldn’t ignore,” said Heyward.
Heyward said he was deeply affected by the posts. He’d stay up late messaging with individual users and would ping Nicole Brooks, a registered family therapist and his co-founder’s wife, for advice.
“I’d get these messages at 4 a.m. from Michael, and not just once or twice,” Brooks said. “We needed to do something for these people. So we all just realized, ‘Okay, people are looking to Whisper for support. What can we do to help?'”
The new YourVoice site, led by Brooks and designed by Marcus Garfinkle of Vibrancy Studios and building on the company’s existing outreach efforts, will include curated and user-submitted videos describing triumph over depression or anxiety, a sort of general mental health version of the gay teen support effort “It Gets Better.”
People can post videos of their own stories, look up resources and chat with others who are dealing with similar issues.
Heyward often calls Whisper, which has received $60 million in venture capital, a response to the world’s “excess inventory of loneliness.”