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June 20, 2023

Mental Founder's Story

After two close men in my family killed themselves, I co-founded Mental, an app designed specifically for men's mental health needs.

Written by:
Anson Whitmer, PhD

When I was 19, my uncle, who had lived with me and was one of my best friends, killed himself. He occasionally had tried to get help but none of the therapists or approaches had ever resonated with him.

It motivated me to get a PhD in psychology. My research, in my academic life, was driven by a desire to understand what causes people like my uncle to develop mood disorders like depression.

Seven years ago, my cousin, who I had grown up with, also killed himself. As far as I know, he’d never gotten help for the things he was struggling with. He had reached out to me a couple days before with a question that, only in retrospect, I realized was a call for help. To my deep regret, I failed to get back to him in time.

On the day of his funeral, a large group of people marched by us protesting against suicide. They didn’t know that we were all gathered that day for the same issue. They just knew that we are not doing enough to address the growing suicide crisis in this country.

I left academia, in many ways disappointed by the fact that despite how much we know about the causes of mood disorders and suicide, we were doing so little work to scale up its solutions.

I joined Calm very early because I knew that meditation is a hugely impactful way to prevent onset of mood disorders. The impact Calm has had on the world has been massively positive.

What bothered me though, is that despite men committing 80% of the suicides in this country, we failed to resonate with them. None of the mental health apps are resonating with the majority of men – they are almost all used 3x more by women. And it is pretty clear why – the tools, messaging and appearance of these apps are all heavily geared towards women.

If we want to fix the suicide crisis, we must find a way get through to men! Tweaking one of these apps is insufficient. We must fundamentally rethink our approach and our assumptions. Fortunately, a growing scientific literature is pointing out the way.

In the fall of 2022, I started Mental along with my co-founder Tyler, Calm’s founding engineer. Mental is the first app out of 20,000+ mental health apps that is designed from the ground up to meet men’s needs.


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