The Scoop: Finding consistent support while you’re experiencing relationship or mental issues can be tricky, but it’s necessary for your well-being. Fortunately, Koko has resources and a supportive community to help anyone through life’s stresses and struggles. Koko is a software that provides free and anonymous peer support and single-session crisis intervention to individuals dealing with mental health issues.
When Rob Morris started his graduate degree at MIT, he felt overwhelmed. Rob had a background in psychology and no formal engineering training, making MIT’s rigorous course of study intimidating, to say the least. He was experiencing severe depression and chronic migraines. He needed help.
Rob had access to good therapists and treatment for his mental health issues, but it wasn’t enough. He needed something more immediate, more practical, and more relatable. He decided to crowdsource some of his own therapy, turning to peers — along with his knowledge of psychology — to help him along the way.
“I eventually developed a new kind of peer support platform that was rooted in evidence-based practices,” Rob said. “It helped me and my classmates, and it showed significant clinical benefits in a randomized trial.”
Rob used his struggles as a grad student and his understanding of psychology to create Koko, a mental health app focused on providing peer-based support to users experiencing mental health struggles, emotional pain, and hard life changes. Koko started as a clinical trial at MIT, and the team has since published seven peer-reviewed articles on its site, as well as two randomized-controlled trials. For the past 10 years, the Koko team has been researching the efficacy of its approach to mental health treatment and assisting plenty of users along the way.
Koko uses an AI bot to crowdsource positive thinking and affirmation to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. The platform has single-session interventions for individuals who need quick and immediate crisis management, as well as a peer support platform for repeat users who want to find community and support in their online mental health journeys. Whether you want to talk through your feelings of loneliness with someone who gets it or you need immediate help, Koko is ready with mental health support.
Harnessing the Power of Peer Support
When you’re going through a hard patch in your life or struggling with consistent mental health problems, the support of your friends and family can do wonders to help you through. But sometimes, they can’t fully understand what you’re experiencing. And even when they do, they can’t be there for you every second of the day. And for some people, depending on loved ones is just too hard.
Koko allows users to get the emotional support benefits of leaning on friends and family through a social media community that’s present whenever they need it. Koko members provide each other with support, affirmation, and advice so they feel less alone and find ways to reshape their thinking for the better. Even those who feel uncomfortable with sharing their struggles can find community through Koko’s platform, as it’s totally anonymous.
“Our peer support platform is something people can use as much as they want and as long as they want,” Rob said. “Some people have been using our peer support service for many years!”
Relationship issues can be difficult to talk about, and yet people in distress often require counseling and hearing different perspectives. But when you’re in a relationship, you may not want to speak critically of your partner to family and friends for fear it may irreparably change their opinion of them. After a breakup, your shared friends may be divided between the two of you, making emotional support even harder to come by.
With Koko’s peer support platform, you can seek the advice and perspective you need after relationship problems or a breakup without it having a negative impact on your relationship with your social circle. And with unbiased, outside perspectives, you know that the support you receive truly comes with your best interest in mind.
Maximizing Quick Engagement
Users of Koko’s peer support platform seek continued community and non-crisis support for their mental health issues. But for many people seeking Koko’s help, the program is a much more immediate aid. Koko serves as an automated crisis intervention for many users by attempting to convert them to using harm intervention resources — often doing so with a higher success rate than that achieved through traditional methods. The goal of the software is to have the maximum positive effect in a short period of time through these single-session interventions.
“The idea is how can we help people as meaningfully and quickly as possible, knowing that we may only have their attention for a short while?” Rob told us. All exercises are under 15 minutes so the software can maintain a user’s attention for enough time to get the full benefits of the intervention.
Koko’s technology also works as a preventative aid against suicidal thoughts and ideation. By installing Koko’s keyword client, the software will detect high-risk searches that often fly under the radar with standard search engines. When the technology detects high-risk searches, it offers intervention resources that are evidence-based, compelling, and rooted in psychology. Koko has the internal expertise and clear success outcomes necessary to actually change a user’s thinking when they’re considering self-harm.
Suicide and self-harm prevention is incredibly important, but it needs to cater to the psychology of a suicidal person to actually be effective. The team at Koko continues to run randomized trials to regularly update its keyword library with emerging slang terms for suicide and self-harm most sought by suicidal people. That entails using current psychology knowledge and data that’s hand-curated by social and clinical psychologists. This enables Koko to provide individualized comfort, support, and resources that will consistently convince people to seek help.
Heal Your Heart With Koko
Whatever mental health issues or emotional problems you’re dealing with, Koko has an option to heal and come out stronger on the other side. The clinically tested intervention and support methods have proven to be effective ways to handle your problems, seek help, and find community.
Individuals healing from the pain of a troubled or ended relationship can find the support they need from Koko users who have been in the same position themselves and know the right things to say. And when others come on the site with relationship issues, they can pay it forward by sharing their experiences, too.
“Peer support is incredibly helpful, but it’s under-appreciated,” Rob said. “And it’s something that works both ways: getting help from peers is extremely powerful, but so is giving help. We find that people who help others the most on Koko show the biggest reductions in depression symptoms.”
Therapy, medication, and even in-patient treatment are all great resources for anyone experiencing mental health problems, but they aren’t available to everyone. Many people could benefit from some of these services but either can’t afford them or feel uncomfortable seeking them out. Some people know they need some support outside of themselves and their immediate circle but don’t feel that seeking professional help is necessary. They need an effective mental health option, too.
“I hope we can be there to support anyone who needs help, especially people who can’t otherwise access therapy services,” Rob told us.
Koko is free, anonymous, and available 24/7, which makes it a wonderful option for individuals to use if they can’t access traditional mental health services or in conjunction with traditional mental health services. It provides immediate intervention, activities, and exercises that quickly help retrain your brain, and a supportive community of people who are able to help each other work through their pain.
If the Koko platform and mission speaks to you, check out the Discord to find a community that cares.