Flourish Labs

Introducing the Giveback Initiative: making professional peer support accessible to all teens and young adults

Fewer than a quarter of people who experience mental illness in America receive any outpatient mental health care. Of the young adults who got care, more than half pay for it out of pocket (SAMHSA National Survey). One of the biggest barriers to accessing care is cost, and many therapists don’t accept insurance.

We pay our professional peer supporters fairly for their work and provide free training, support and supervision for them. This means that our service costs $65 for a 50 minute session. While that’s less than therapy, we know many people still need assistance to cover the cost.

We are committed to making accessible to all youth.

To fulfil this commitment, we are partnering with nonprofits and youth-led organizations to donate free sessions for their teen and young adult members until we have insurance coverage for our peer support.

The founding partners of our Giveback Initiative are:

Active Minds is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults. 

Dragonfly Mental Health is focused on cultivating excellent mental health in academics worldwide by developing, deploying, and evaluating evidence-based strategies. 

I Have The Right To works on creating an ecosystem of respect and support for students and survivors of sexual assault. Founded by a survivor and their parents, they are a hub for middle and high school students, parents, and educators looking for information, support, and avenues of action against sexual assault.

The Mental Health Initiative For South Asians (MHISA) is a grass-roots organization founded by students at UT Austin committed to addressing the societal and structural barriers which prevent South Asian-Americans from accessing mental health care.

Morgan’s Message strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics.

NAMI Clackamas is an Oregon-based chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone impacted by mental health issues through support, education, and advocacy. We hope to work with more NAMI chapters in future.

OutCare Health is a non-profit leading the charge for LGBTQ+ health equity worldwide, empowering millions of LGBTQ+ individuals with comprehensive resources, support, and education.

Running Start is a nonpartisan nonprofit that trains young women to run for political office. When they surveyed their members how they could support them further, mental health was the #1 request.

We’ll be adding more partners over the next few months. If you are a non-profit or youth-led organization that would like to receive donated sessions for your members, please get in touch. It doesn’t matter whether your mission is directly related to mental health or not – all that matters is that you want to support the mental health of your teen and young adult members, and have a way to distribute our peer support sessions to them.

The role of philanthropy in funding mental health innovation

We believe that peer support should be part of the healthcare system, provided by professional peer supporters who are paid for their work, and funded equitably by insurance alongside other forms of mental health care.

Today, there are only 25,000 people who work as a peer support specialists in the US. Insurance reimbursement for peer support exists, but is not yet wide-spread. As a result, much of peer support is provided by volunteers and funded by philanthropy. This will not scale to reach the millions of people who could benefit from peer support.

We are actively working on partnerships with Medicaid and private insurance companies, so that our service will be covered by insurance. But insurance contracts take a while to set up, especially for Medicaid which is administered differently in each state. 

Philanthropy can play an instrumental role to provide bridge funding to demonstrate that peer support works: for young people who want faster access to quality care, for provider groups who are thinking about integrating peer support into their care model, and for health insurance plans who are looking to reduce the overall cost of health care.

On the research side, Professors Keanan Joyner at UC Berkeley and Greg Hajcak at Santa Clara University are conducting a study to assess whether telehealth peer support can reduce anxiety and depression in young adults. The study is independent of Flourish Labs, and funded by The Cohen Foundation, the Penner Family Foundation, and an individual donor.

Donors can also help us provide more peer support sessions to our partner organizations. Your donation will go directly to the organization to support their mental health work, and we will provide them with discounted sessions in addition to the free ones we’re donating. 

This is why I am announcing this initiative at the Milken Health Institute Future of Health Summit today, the most important gathering of philanthropists in the health space.

How you can help: Give the gift of peer support today

We’re going to keep giving away sessions until we have reached our goal of getting wide-spread insurance coverage for our peer support. We’re an early stage startup and have limited funds, so we need your help!

If you have a teen or young adult in your life who could benefit from support, consider buying a gift card for them. Remember, we’ll donate one session for every session you buy.

If you are a donor and would like to fund a bundle of 100 or more sessions to one of our partners or another organization you already support, and would like us to include in our Giveback Initiative, please get in touch.

Together with our community partners and your help, we can bring professional mental health peer support to millions of youth across the country who otherwise would not be able to access it.

Flourish Labs

In support of everyone affected by the events in Israel and Gaza

I’m horrified by the Hamas attack on Israel and the Israeli bombings of Gaza that followed. My heart goes out to the people trapped in Gaza, and the relatives and friends of those who’ve been killed or are missing – Israeli, Palestinian and other nationalities.

This feels very personal for me, not just because I’ve had Jewish and Palestinian friends all my life. I lived in London during times of constant threat of terrorist attacks, from the IRA, al-Qaeda and ISIS. On July 7th 2005, bombs exploded across London. One blast blew up a bus just a block from our house, another a train at our local underground station. One of my friends was in the train carriage that got hit. She escaped almost unhurt only because the train was so full that she was shielded by the bodies between her and the bomber. I had gone to work early that day, otherwise I could have been there.

I relegated this event to a drawer of my memory that I never opened until last week, when an Israeli friend told me about being caught up in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. Hearing his story brought back the London bombings for me very vividly. We cried together as we remembered the terror of a narrow escape, of not knowing whether our loved ones were safe. It was many years ago, but it still affected us. You can imagine our shock when we saw the news of the attacks in Israel a day later.

Trauma takes many forms – peer support can help.

Processing trauma is hard, and it can take years to recover. I know that peer support helps from my personal experience: being with my friend who had gone through a similar experience and understood what it’s like felt incredibly healing. That’s what peer support is all about.

Many of our supporters have experienced trauma. Even if they haven’t gone through community trauma like we’re witnessing right now, all of our professional peer supporters are trained in trauma-informed care and supported in turn by our experienced supervisors. We’re also rolling out an additional training on this kind of trauma for all our supporters next week.

It’s always risky when a company offers something during a crisis, because it might be misunderstood as self-promotion. I talked to my team and we decided to take the risk because peer support is what we do and we know it can be so helpful with trauma.

So here we go:

If you’re a 13-30 year old who is affected by what’s going on in Israel and Gaza, we’re here for you. 🤍

🕊️ Enter code PEACE when you book a support session on and pay just $5 (instead of $65). All proceeds will be donated to Save The Children who are providing mental health support to children in conflict zones, including Israel and Gaza. We won’t make any money on these sessions. 

Please share this with anyone who you think might benefit from this support. We’re giving out the code freely and trusting people to not misuse  it. Unfortunately, we can’t offer peer support service overseas yet, so you need to be based in the US. 

If you need immediate help, call 988 or text HOME to 741741 to reach a Crisis Text Line counselor.

The Child Mind Institute offers free trauma resources to help parents, educators, and other adults in talking to children and adolescents about potentially traumatic events.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones during these tough times.


Flourish Labs founder

Flourish Labs

From crisis to connection: professional peer support is our answer to the youth mental health crisis

Somewhere not too far from where you’re reading this, there’s a teenager at a hospital emergency department navigating a mental health crisis. Most likely, they’ll be released after sitting in the emergency room for several hours. According to guidelines, they are supposed to be seen by a mental health professional within seven days after being discharged from the emergency department. In reality, less than one in three young people get any follow up, and one in four will return to the emergency department within six months (Hoffman et al, 2023). 

The teen and their parents will leave the hospital and try to figure out next steps. They will likely struggle to find a therapist that has free appointments, is affordable and can relate to the teen. Many just give up.

“Youth mental health is the defining public health crisis of our time.”

— Dr. Vivek Murphy, U.S. Surgeon General

The United States is in the midst of a mental health crisis, with a severe shortage of mental health providers. The US has just over half a million therapists. We would need to more than double the number of providers to ensure everyone can access the care they deserve, and demand is growing faster than new therapists are being trained. The gap between need and care is most pronounced among young adults. 46% of young adults experienced substance abuse or mental illness in 2021, and 55% of those received no care (SAMHSA National Survey 2021). Youth is a critical time for intervention, in 75% of cases the first onset of mental illness is before the age of 24 (Kessler et al, 2005). U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy has called youth mental health the defining public health crisis of our time.

Professional peer support is our answer to the youth mental health crisis

My cofounder Dr. Kim Newell Green practiced as a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco for over a decade and saw first hand how her teen and young adult patients struggled to access timely, age-appropriate mental health care. I first experienced the power of peer support two decades ago when my boyfriend was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Peer support is backed by evidence and rooted in human connection, but has not yet been scaled. Mental Health America estimates that there are under 25,000 Peer Support Specialists who do peer support as a job.

What was lacking was a way to scale training to bring more people into the peer support workforce, and a robust and secure telehealth offering that fits within the healthcare system and can reach youth anywhere, not just in urban centers. We founded Flourish Labs to do just that.

“We’re on a mission to scale professional peer support with the help of technology to address the mental health crisis.”

We expand the mental health workforce by hiring and training young adults with diverse backgrounds and past experience of mental health challenges to become certified Peer Support Specialists. Our proprietary online training fulfills state and national certification standards and was developed together with experienced peer supporters, online learning experts, and young adults.

On, our HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform, youth can book a 1-on-1 session with a professional peer supporter of their choice, on demand. Our professional peer supporters provide emotional support, teach skills, and share their knowledge and personal experiences dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma, stress, body image issues, LGBTQ+ questions, and more. 

Many studies showed that peer support is effective to help people reach recovery and live fulfilling lives. Perhaps more surprisingly, it can also help the supporter stay in recovery (Johnson et al, 2019). By offering training and jobs to people in recovery, we create a virtuous cycle and turn a huge problem into a huge opportunity: 58 million adults have a mental health diagnosis in the US today. If we can help even a fraction of them to reach recovery and train them to work as Peer Support Specialists, we will dramatically expand the mental health workforce.

We’re not alone in our belief that professional peer support can bridge the gap in mental health care. Mental Health America, the Biden Administration, and the US Governors Association among others have all made it a priority.

We were fortunate to be backed by great investors at Gradient Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Learn Capital, WGU, Tiny VC and One Mind, as well as operator angels from healthcare companies who are helping us build our vision.

Built for young adults – and now teens!

We launched an early version of in late February 2023 and have been learning from hundreds of young adults who tested our service and gave us feedback in our user research studies.

We learned that they love being able to choose their peer supporter along dimensions that matter to them. Many therapists look like my cofounder Kim and I: middle-aged cisgender straight white women.

Dr. Kim Newell Green (left) and Obi Felten (right), Flourish Labs founders

Gen Z and Millenials are more diverse than any other generation before, and they want to connect with someone closer to them in age who shares their identity and life experiences. Our supporters are young adults aged 18 to 35; more than half of them identify as LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC.

Here is what our beta users have said:

“I highly enjoyed the session. Overall, I felt supported, heard, and appreciated. More importantly, I shared common ground and felt a sense of belonging with my Peer Supporter.”

“My peer supporter was lovely and an absolute joy to interact with. I felt that my issues were heard and that the intersectional factors that impact my well-being was seen. She created a wonderful list [of tools] with me that I look forward to applying moving forward.”

“I am very blown away at how effective it was for me to just talk to someone about my troubles. I have recently stopped therapy due to financial constraints, but after going through today’s session I decided to continue on with the peer supporter I chose in the coming future because I found it so helpful.”

We learned that not all of them want to be on video, so we’re allowing sessions to be off video/audio only, and are working on adding text-based messaging.

We also got one question over and over again:

“When are you opening up to teens?”

We’re excited to launch the official version of today, and open up to teenagers for the first time. This means we’re now providing support to everyone between the ages of 13 and 30.

Built for healthcare: Announcing our partnership with Sutter Health

As we expand, our goal is to make professional peer support part of the standard of care in mental health. To do this, we chose to work within the healthcare system and to healthcare standards, including our HIPAA-compliant platform. We ensure quality, manage risk and measure outcomes via a combination of experienced supervisors and AI. 

For provider groups, schools and health plans, unlocks rapid access to 1-on-1 support across the spectrum of mental health needs. This might be a youth leaving the emergency room or an eating disorder intensive outpatient program, or a first generation student looking for support during stressful exam times. Our first healthcare partner is Sutter Health, who are today announcing the launch of their Scout mental health app for teens and young adults. Scout by Sutter Health™ offers evidence-based tools, exercises and resources for self-care. While designing Scout, the Sutter Health team found that some users were looking for rapid access to 1-on-1 human support in addition to the app, and chose to partner with Flourish Labs to provide this. As of today, Scout users can access with one click from the resources page within the app.

To celebrate the launch, we’re offering Scout users a free session, for a limited time only. users will get a free Scout app membership.

Join the peer support revolution

We hope this will be the first of many partnerships where we work with health systems and provider groups to integrate our peer support into their care model. Our goal is to partner with Medicaid and commercial insurance plans to make peer support routinely reimbursed like other mental health services.

While we work on getting our health plan partnerships in place, we made affordable at $65 for a 50 minute session – about half the cost of therapy. If you are a parent, fairy godmother, thoughtful older sibling or just looking out for a friend, you can buy a gift card and save up to 20% on a bundle of sessions.

We’ll also be working with community organizations to make discounted or free sessions available to their teen and young adult members; we will announce this later this year. Please get in touch if your organization would like to be included in this program.

With partners like Sutter Health, Flourish Labs is helping to bring about a future where affordable, quality mental health support is available to everyone who needs it. A future where teens, young adults and their parents no longer have to face these challenges alone.

By addressing the workforce gap and offering a scalable solution to the youth mental health crisis, we are rewriting the story from one of crisis to one of empowerment, where youth who experienced mental health challenges first-hand become part of the mental health workforce, help others, and help themselves stay in recovery.

If you recognize yourself or someone you love in this story – as someone who needs support or could provide support, as a community organization who wants to provide support to your members, as a provider group or health plan who wants to expand access and lower costs – please join us at and be part of the revolution.

Flourish Labs

5 surprising things I have in common with economist Steve Levitt

Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt recently invited me on his ‘People I (Mostly) Admire’ podcast. Our conversation ran the gamut: we discussed everything from dream jobs and fantastic failures, to the power of mental health peer support and the fall of the Berlin Wall. These are topics close to Steve’s heart, so I also learnt quite a bit about him—including some surprising personal parallels!

Here are 5  things that Steve and I have in common. The last one especially was a surprise!

  1. We are not afraid to fail because we prioritise learning. Steve tries out more projects than the average academic. I’ve worked on many failed projects in my career. We talk about some of my favourites on the podcast, like Project Loon and Project Foghorn at X. We both continue to prioritise learning over a fear of failure in our roles today!
  2. We have close family members who struggled with serious mental illness, leading us to care deeply about mental health. Having experienced the power of peer support, both giving it and receiving it, we are curious  about the science: what makes therapy and peer support effective, and how someone with much less training than a therapist can help others recover.
  3. We had the same business idea. We both imagined matching people experiencing mental health struggles with peer supporters who have gone through the same. When Steve’s daughter Lily shared her experience recovering from an eating disorder on Instagram, she got countless DMs from other teens asking her for help. Steve never got around to setting up a peer support marketplace, and was delighted to discover that I set one up at! 🙂
  4. Our worldviews have been shaped by experiences with US and German culture, at different points in our lives. Steve’s wife is German and he lives there now. I grew up in Berlin, went to the US as a high school exchange student as a teenager and almost missed the wall coming down, which we also talk about on the podcast.
  5. We both have imposter  syndrome. (Wait, what??? Steve Levitt has impostor syndrome!!) On the podcast, Steve wonders how many of his podcast listeners really feel like imposters, so he invites them to send a one line email to saying either “imposter” or “not an imposter”. I’m curious how many of you feel that they’re an imposter. If you’re brave enough to share openly, please let me know in the comments! 

Thank you Steve, Morgan and the PIMA team for the enjoyable, interesting and sometimes challenging conversation.I was nervous at the beginning of the recording (imposter!!!!), sitting in a dark studio in San Francisco talking to Steve halfway across the world. By the end Steve and I could have chatted for two more hours. Mental health and peer support are complicated to unpack. The podcast format was perfect for it, especially since Steve had a personal connection. 

I’d love to do more podcasts on the topic of mental health and peer support, for example: How peer support works with other modalities/solutions to the mental health crisis, a deep dive on the science of peer support, hearing from others with lived experience of mental health challenges for whom peer support  has worked, and whether a chatbot could ever deliver proper peer support (which is  as much a philosophical as a technical question).

What conversations about peer support and mental health would you like to hear on a future podcast? Get in touch here and let me know!

You can listen and find the transcript on the Freakonomics website here, or download the episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Flourish Labs

The Power of Shared Lived Experiences

During Pride Month, we honor the LGBTQIA+ community, its history, and its ongoing struggle for equality. It’s also an opportunity to shed light on the challenges faced by queer youth, particularly in terms of mental health support. 

Here at Flourish Labs, we are passionately committed to diversity – most importantly, we are big believers in the power of shared lived experiences. So when we developed, a platform offering online peer support to individuals aged 18-30, we knew we wanted to connect those in need with someone who is not only trained to provide them with emotional support, but also *truly* understands what they are going through.

Many young people, myself included, have navigated their journey of coming out and living openly (or not) without the guidance and understanding they desperately needed.
Growing up as an LGBTQIA+ individual can be an isolating experience, especially when the necessary mental health support is lacking. It is crucial to acknowledge the significance of support tailored to the very specific needs of this incredibly rich and diverse community.

Here at Flourish Labs, we recognized this need from the very start – so we consciously made it a priority when developing To ensure representation, a few months back we set an internal hiring goal to ensure that 50%+ of our trained peer supporters identify as LGBTQIA+.

And today, I’m excited to announce we have met our goal and continue to make that a goal for each new cohort of peer supporters. We have an amazing group of queer Peer Supporters ready to listen, help, lift up and connect this underserved population with the right resources they need to heal – and to flourish. To celebrate this milestone, and cognizant of the fact that seeking and getting support can often be especially challenging for the queer community, we will be offering free peer support sessions to any & all LGBTQIA+ youth until August 31st

Our strong commitment to representation is aimed at ensuring that those needing support can easily connect with someone who understands their experiences intimately. This alone can create a safe and empathetic space for discussing mental health concerns. As Flourish Lab’s Head of People, and as a fellow queer individual, I am truly proud to be leading this initiative – and I hope many young LGBTQIA+ individuals will take advantage of this opportunity to access the qualified support they so deeply need and deserve. For free. 

So let’s celebrate Pride by encouraging the wonderful queer community to prioritize their well-being. Together, we can increase a more inclusive and supportive society for all.

Flourish Labs

Why I Believe in Peer Support

I’m a doctor. A doctor’s toolbox includes lots of things: medical education and training, license to diagnose, and ability to recognize ailments and prescribe treatment. So when a colleague suggested that unlicensed folks with lived experience might be as good or even better at meeting the needs of people who are struggling with their mental health, you might think that I’d be skeptical. What tools would untrained individuals have in their toolboxes? 

To be sure, there is a crucial need for more mental health care support in our country. Today 157 million Americans (48%) live in areas with a shortage of mental health providers. Limited provider capacity means that over half of the 58 million adults with mental illness receive no mental health care at all. That’s more than 29 million! The average wait time to see any mental health provider is 1-3 months, and up to 6 or even 12 months in some places. And for historically underserved communities including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ populations, finding a culturally sensitive provider can be even more challenging

I have always told my patients that they need to build a village of support around them.  And as a physician, I know I need a team around me to take care of patients. As I looked at the literature on peer support, I realized that the model of connecting folks who have lived through the same struggles has been effectively helping people for decades outside of clinical settings. Communities for people who are mutually struggling with grief and addiction, for example, are trusted and commonplace.

No one can better understand what it is like to lose a loved one or to hit rock bottom than someone who has been there too.

It’s why groups of people continue to gather week after week, year after year, in church basements and rec centers, to support each other in ways that friends or doctors never could. It’s why people living with mental illness connect online to support and empower each other

Lived experience is a tool that only a peer has in their toolbox—and it can be as valuable as a doctor’s handbook or prescription when it comes to mental health.

What kinds of mental health outcomes could be unlocked if peer support was available at scale for folks living with other types of mental health struggles, such as eating disorders, depression, or anxiety?

Peer support is powerful. It’s an evidence-based practice that has been shown to significantly improve mental health outcomes, especially among college-age students and individuals from historically underserved communities, including Black, Transgender, and first-generation college students. Research compiled by Mental Health America shows peer support leads to:

  • Increased hopefulness and sense of well-being
  • Increased activation
  • Increased ongoing engagement with care
  • Improved self-care
  • Increased social functioning
  • Decreased substance use and depression
  • Decreased hospitalization, use of in-patient services, and costs to the mental health system  

Peer support is the gift of sharing life experiences with someone who is living or has lived your same truth.

Peers model wellness, personal responsibility, self-advocacy and hopefulness by sharing their stories and embodying recovery. 

Realizing the value of peer support put me on the path to co-founding Flourish Labs and creating, where we hire people with experience of mental health challenges and train them to become certified peer supporters. They are then matched with peers to deliver virtual peer support on our telehealth platform. Peers are not therapists or doctors, nor are they “regular people” who can simply “relate.” They are skilled allies who know how to give the support that helped them get to where they are, or that they wish they could have had when they were in the thick of it.  Isn’t that a tool everyone deserves to have in their mental health toolbox? 

Flourish Labs Product updates

Introducing, a new mental health support network for college students

I was going to start this post with the data. Over 50 millions Americans have a mental health diagnosis. Over half of them get no care at all. Only 30% get therapy.  Because they can’t afford it, because their insurance doesn’t cover it, because of stigma, because they live in a county without a single psychologist (that’s 75% of Americans), because the demand for therapy is growing faster than we can train therapists, because waitlists are getting longer. Suicide is the second cause of death among teenagers and young adults. 60% of college students have mental health challenges. 60% of LGBTQ+ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it. There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis, especially among young people.

Sources: SAMHSA National Survey, Bureau of Labor

I was then going to talk about how we need new solutions, like digital therapeutics and new drugs. That we need to train more people in mental health care, not just experts with Master and PhD degrees. That peer support – people with lived experience of mental health challenges supporting others in their community – is an overlooked solution to the mental health crisis. All of this is true, but it felt like yet another article about mental health, indistinguishable from all the others I’ve been reading.

As I was sitting on the sofa chewing my pencil, my husband looked at me and said, “You’re overthinking this. You need to write it from the heart. What do you want to say?”

What I really want to say is this: You are not alone

Behind all those statistics are real people, like my husband who has been living with bipolar since we first met at university. People who can’t see a way out of their suffering, who blame themselves, who worry their loved ones, who are feeling alone in their pain. Our families and friends, mine and yours.

If you are suffering, I want you to know: You are not alone. Your pain is real, and there are others who have been in that dark cave and have found their way out of it and sometimes, back into it again. People who’ve learned what it takes to pull themselves out of that cave and ask for help. 

We want to make it easier for you to share your pain and your story with others who’ve been there. To let them help carry your load because it’s too much for you to carry right now. You deserve this help. 

Our peer supporters will support you, one human being to another. They are uniquely qualified to do this because they’ve dealt with mental health challenges themselves, and are in recovery. Our peer supporters bring a variety of life experiences, from struggling with depression or body image to identifying as pansexual or Latinx. They will share their stories of growth and resilience. They won’t judge you and they’re not trying to change you, because they know that you are complete just as you are. Rather, they’re here to listen and to guide you through things that you may not feel equipped to deal with on your own. They will help you find strengths that you didn’t know you have.

Our website and our service certainly aren’t perfect; they’re what tech people call a ‘beta product’. We embrace the imperfections, because we know they will get better as we get feedback from our first users. We’ve built them with care: Our telehealth platform is HIPAA compliant and secure. Our peer supporters are trained to a  state certification level. Our head of peer support, Ally, met with every single supporter last week to see if they’re ready, and to provide them the support they may need.

Find your supporters

If you would like to talk to a caring human being about something that’s going on in your life, we have wonderful peer supporters on our platform who are eager to be there for you. Not only have they gone through training and earned their certification, but they’ve also chosen to show up every day and be vulnerable to help you. 

When we asked them why they wanted to become peer supporters, here is what they said:

“I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.” 

“If it weren’t for the few people who were able to meet me where I was at mentally in my early twenties, I likely never would have healed. I can only hope to give that back to somebody who needs it in the same way.”

“I’m here because you matter. I know what it’s like to feel as if you’re drowning in your suffering and struggles with no room to breathe. I believe in you and your ability to heal and grow and love. You don’t have to do it alone.”

Some are just as nervous as you are right now. One said in our group chat, “I’m worried that nobody is going to book a session with me”. The others rallied around, reassuring her and making her feel heard – giving each other peer support!

So what are you waiting for? 

We hope you’ll join us in this journey. is now available for 18-30 year olds. Give a try and see how it feels to talk to someone who gets you.

It might not look like much now, but it’s the beginning of a revolution.

Flourish Labs Peer Support Training

Peer Support 101: Empowering college students to support each other with free mental health training

Why we’re launching our peer support training and network

At Flourish Labs, we’re on a mission to bring accessible, affordable mental health support to everyone who needs it by empowering people to support each other. We’re in the midst of a student mental health crisis. Over 40% of college students have mental health challenges, according to the Healthy Minds Study. College counseling centers are struggling to keep up with demand

We believe that peer support is an effective, yet under-utilized solution to this crisis. Peer supporters use their own lived experience of mental health challenges to help others. Studies have shown that peer support not only benefits the student being supported, but also helps the supporter maintain good mental health. In other words, it’s mutual. A recent survey found that 20% of students already have experienced peer support, and another 50% want to try it. On many campuses, students are self-organizing to provide informal peer support to each other, with little or no training.

Unfortunately, as with other mental health professions, there aren’t enough trained and qualified peer supporters to meet the need. Mental Health America estimates that only about 24,000 people work as Certified Peer Support Specialists in the US today. 

Our ambition is to grow this workforce by training students in peer support skills, such as active listening, building rapport, strengths, self-care, coping strategies and safety. We’ll then offer students a part-time job as Certified Peer Supporters in our peer support network launching later this fall. Students who want support will be able to find Certified Peer Supporters who match their needs, and book support sessions via our digital platform.

We’re not alone

This effort will take a village, not just a technology startup such as Flourish Labs, so we’re partnering with nonprofits and colleges to bring the peer supporter training and job opportunity to students. We’re working closely with two leading nonprofits in the youth peer space. Youth Era, a peer-led organization based in Oregon who have deep experience in training youth peer supporters, is our training partner. We’ve been designing our program with Active Minds, the largest nationwide network of student mental health volunteers with chapters on over 600 college campuses.

We’re also working with student groups, career centers, psychology departments and innovation groups at Northeastern University, University of St Thomas Houston, Western Governors University, Arizona State University and University of Oregon to bring this opportunity to their community. (Read this blogpost on why WGU chose to partner with us.) We’re always looking for more college partners, especially community colleges and others with diverse student populations. So if you are interested in offering peer supporter training, paid work experience and meaningful part-time jobs to your students, please get in touch.

Sign up for ‘Peer Support 101’ training, starting August 29th

Our ‘Peer Support 101’ training is a 20-hour live, virtual course designed and delivered in partnership with Youth Era. It is based on Youth Era’s proven Uplift program, and adapted for college students.  

You can learn more about the training and sign up here:

Register by August 25th to join the training starting August 29th, or get priority access for future courses if you can’t make this one.

We are offering 150 scholarships so students can participate in the training free of charge (worth $475 each). If you complete the course and pass the assessment at the end, you will receive a digital certificate that you can display on your LinkedIn or Handshake profile – and a $75 gift voucher!

As with all our projects, we’re designing our training with students, for students. This first cohort will be a beta test and we’ll evolve it over time.

We hope to see you at our first training!

Image: Nathan Blanken and fellow University of Maryland students at Active Minds event in October 2021. Photo by Kevin Carney

Flourish Labs Product updates

The myala signal: An easier way to reach out and get support from your friends when you need it

Posted on 16 June 2022, updated 7 April 2023
by Anastasia Zorlas, Product & UX Research Intern

My personal journey with mental health started in my senior year of high school. When I first experienced my mental wellness declining, I became very isolated from my support system – to the point where I kept all of my emotions inside and made sure that everyone I cared about stayed out. At the time, I was scared to bring up how poor my mental state was because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. When I started college, I was lucky to meet people who understood what I was going through and helped me to find the right support. 

Now I’m a fourth-year entrepreneurship and computer science student at Northeastern University. In January I moved to San Francisco for a semester to learn more about startups. I met Obi Felten, who had left Google X to start her company Flourish Labs, focusing on the student mental health crisis.  I was drawn to Obi’s vision of ‘flourishing minds for all’ and her willingness to ask for help from students and people with lived experience of mental health challenges to ensure that the products Flourish Labs makes are what we need and want. I joined her as an intern, excited about the opportunity to make change for students who are struggling with their mental health and might not be as lucky as I’ve been in finding support.

There have been significant strides in the past few years to reduce the social stigma of seeking help if you experience mental health challenges. Yet there are still so many people who are not getting the support they need, when they need it.

Over the past few months, we have been working with groups of students from Northeastern University and our partner Active Minds to evolve the myala app. myala started out last September as a self-tracking app, helping you understand the ups and downs of your mind. It also offered quick access to crisis counsellors from Crisis Text Line

But sometimes you’re not in crisis, you just want someone to talk to. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to reach out to a friend or family member for help when I’m feeling low. Who do I contact? What do I say to them?

In one of our design workshops with Northeastern students in the Bay Area, we discussed how difficult it can be to reach out for help exactly when you need it most.

We brainstormed ways to break down this barrier, and got inspired by the bat-signal beckoning Batman for help!

The first bat-signal
Image credit: DC Comics

Today we’re launching the myala signal, which makes it easier to reach out and get support from your friends when you need it. Here is how it works:

  1. In the support section of the myala app, you can invite your friends or family to be part of your support team. After they accept, they appear in your support team list. You can add or remove supporters at any time.
  2. You can customize the text message that myala sends out to your friends when you ask for support. 
  3. When you want support, all you need to do is tap the myala signal button in the app. myala sends a text message to each person on your support team with your message, asking them to get in touch with you. 

Next time you are feeling down and want someone to talk to, send out a myala signal! 

The myala signal is not intended to replace crisis support. If you’re in a crisis and want an immediate response, please contact 988.

How we designed the myala signal with students, for students

In my internship, I learnt a lot about the process from idea to product feature launching in the app. Here is how we did it:

Co-designing with Northeastern students

1. In our design workshop, we brainstormed how a bat-signal might manifest in the håp app.

Bat signal brainstorm

2. We created a storyboard of the user experience.

Bat signal storyboard

3. We drew flow diagrams and a paper prototype with screen wireframes made of giant Post-It notes.

Paper flow & wireframes

4. After the workshop, I worked with Nathan to transfer our paper designs into flows and wireframes in Figma, our user interface design tool. We discussed the flows and wireframes with our designer and our engineering team, and made some adjustments.

Figma flows & wireframes

4. Our designer Charles turned our wireframes into screen designs for our engineering team to implement.

5. After our engineers built the feature, we tested an internal build with a small group of testers to make sure it worked properly.

Today we’re releasing the app with the new myala signal feature to the public, and we can’t wait to get your feedback!

myala is now freely available to all students

myala was launched last September in a closed beta test with a few hundred trusted testers, mostly Active Minds members and Northeastern students. We are hugely grateful to our testers who gave us plenty of feedback on how to improve and evolve the app. 

Starting today, we are making the myala app freely available to any student over the age of 16 studying in the US. You just need an email address ending in .edu to sign into the app. As a myala user, you can invite friends and family to use myala with your personal referral link, even if they are not a student. Go to settings/refer a friend to share the app.

myala is still very much a work in progress. We welcome your feedback as we continue to design with students, for students. You can give feedback at any time by tapping the feedback button in the top right corner of the app, it looks like a speech bubble.

If you want to get more actively involved, we’ll be running more focus groups, online surveys and design workshops in the summer and fall. I’m staying on at Flourish Labs to do a coop placement for the rest of the year working on user experience research and product development, so look out for an invite from me to participate!

Coming soon: Peer supporter training in partnership with Youth Era

Starting this summer, Flourish Labs is partnering with Youth Era to offer peer support training for students. Youth Era is a nonprofit based in Eugene, Oregon who have been empowering teenagers and young adults with peer support for over a decade. Flourish Labs will be offering students the opportunity to work as a peer supporter during their studies after they successfully complete the training. We’re excited to bring peer support to more college students across the US.

Learn more at or download myala from the App Store or Google Play. 

If you already use myala, the app will prompt you to update to the new version of the app with the myala signal. To manually update, go to the App Store or Google Play and tap ‘update’.

Learn more about peer supporter training and sign up at

Note: This blogpost was updated on 7 April 2023 to reflect the name change from håp to myala.

#mentalhealth #studentmentalhealth #livedexperience #peersupport #usercentereddesign #BuildInTheOpen