Whisper Cofounders Invest in Mental Health Nonprofit

Spend much time in any corner of the Internet where strangers don't exchange names, and you'll start seeing some dark shit. People will confess all sorts of things under the cover of anonymity—abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts. And one app is attempting to do its part.

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Recode reports that the cofounders of anonymous secret-sharing app Whisper are putting a million dollars into YourVoice, the company's affiliated (but separate) mental-health nonprofit. YourVoice is also launching an It-Gets-Better-style testimonial site where people can share their own stories publicly, as well as providing resources on everything from stress to sexual abuse. Their thinking is pretty obvious: All told, so far, Whisper has referred 40,000 users to suicide hotlines.

YourVoice is run by Nicole Brooks, a licensed therapist who's married to cofounder Brad Brooks. According to TechCrunch:

The new platform will let individuals upload video testimonials about their struggles with a host of issues, including anxiety, depression, suicide, stress management, body image, eating disorders, sexuality, bullying and sexual abuse.

Mental illness is a big problem, and it takes more than "raising awareness" with a pretty digital platform. But if Whisper can encourage some individual users to get the help they need, that's a good thing.

DISCUSSION

I find it interesting this is coming about shortly after Whisper (and other anonymous sharing apps) were called out by PostSecret (The original anonymous secret sharing project) founder, Frank Warren.

"If you do some research online you'll be able to identify crime reports of sexual predators who have used the Whisper app to contact young boys and women. One girl was 12 years old and a sexual predator contacted her in using Whisper and they communicated privately. He contacted her on the app, he went to her house I think, asked her to sneak out her bedroom window, and he took her to a hotel and sexually assaulted her. That's a criminal case pending, and there's another one that just came out a couple days ago. What does concern me is what this app make possible for very sophisticated sexual predators."

He also went on to say that his concern for the wellbeing of the people was the reason behind why he choose to shut down the original PostSecret app after only three months (before Whisper and Secret were created). "They were griefers determined to post malicious or sexual or bullying content in response to other secrets. It was cruel, and it made it virtually impossible to monitor because there were tens of thousands of secrets being shared every day." And then went on to say that he hears stories of this behavior also being a problem in the other apps today, and that is unfortunate.

Full article can be read here. As always there's two sides to every story, and I'm glad that Whisper thinks raising awareness about Mental Illnesses is important, good for them, I just think that they need to acknowledge that their app itself seems to be creating a community doing quite a bit of damage to individuals who are suffering and find a solution there as well.