Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week One Update: CIMHS Successful Soft Launch

It has been a crazy week since we launched CIMHS last Sunday. I thought I'd write a quick blog to share some of the exciting developments.

We had a successful soft launch, spread the word through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more importantly talking to people directly about it. Now a majority of people we know are aware of this initiative, and started to chip in. From reporting bugs to helping spread the message to an even wider audience. Thanks to Boby, one of my old University of Waterloo computer science profs Jeremy,  and our own team, we caught a few issues and resolved them right away.

Our cause is resonating with people! We started getting attention from people I've never met. They started sharing and liking our comments, and helping us reach a broader audience. I want to thank Geeta, Jason, Rob for posting their own personal messages about our launch. Another friend offered to help us make two very important connections as we try to reach more people, and we are now actively talking to these parties (more to come on this later!)

People are using our product in a meaningful way. When building any new product there is a lot of uncertainty around how and if it will be used. I'm happy to see that we are getting a healthy sign-up rate and more importantly people are spending time completing Bliss our therapy program for depressed mood. In this day and age it is a challenge getting people's attention for 30 seconds, but people are spending a a good 30 minutes and sometimes more completing our first therapy session.

I want to thank our awesome team with helping get the word out and creating a successful soft launch. This is a direct result of their work sharing and shamelessly plugging CIMHS in every way they could, Julie, Sara, Josh, Sam, Mojib, Grant, you guys are all awesome. Special shout out to Julie for the amount of coverage she got us, and helping us make new connections.

So what's next? We launched our official facebook page today, so please take the time to pay it visit and like our page. Help us spread the message, we don't have a big marketing budget, so any like/post/share or conversation you have with anyone about CIMHS helps us greatly!

Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far! Please keep the feedback coming, and we are always looking for people to help, so if you are interested in helping out please reach out to me!


Kasra Zokaei
Founder and Executive Director

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World Suicide Prevention Day 2013

WSPD 2013
Today marks the 2013 World Suicide Prevention Day, so I thought the best way to commemorate this day is to raise some awareness around this topic.

Here are a few important information to know about suicide worldwide:

  • 5% of the global population is estimated to attempt suicide in their life time
  • 1 million people are estimated to commit suicide each year (That's 1 in every 40 seconds)

Mental Illness, such as depression, can lead to suicide. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among our youth (15-24) in Canada.

These are tragic numbers considering suicide is something that we can prevent. As the theme of this year states, "Stigma is one of the major barriers to suicide prevention." The treatments are out there, but stigma prevents them from seeking treatment.

One of the main goals of designing our therapy programs at CIMHS was to combat the stigma that exists in our society. That's why we designed our Bliss Depression Therapy program to be confidential, so even if people are reluctant to seek help they can still get the crucial information they need anonymously to combat their depressed mood.

Please take time some time today to remember those we lost due to suicide and do your part for spreading some awareness around this debilitating issue in our society.

Below is the official president's message from the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the organization that organized "World Suicide Prevention Day" in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO):


Kasra Zokaei
Founder and Executive Director

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Writing a New Chapter in the Mental Health Movement

It's Kasra here, and I'm super excited to finally share our online therapy solutions with with you all, but first a little bit of a background on why we created this solution.

Our society has made significant leaps in our understanding of mental health over the last century. We have gone from a very limited and bleak view of mental illness to classifying and treating mental disorders. As our understanding grew, the face of mental health changed. The most visible people with mental illness are the ones that are most severely affected by it, but we know that there are a many people suffering in silence. They are our family members, friends, and colleagues.

Old Face of Mental Illness
How people perceived mental illness as
depicted by Francisco Goya's 1824 painting 
New Face of Mental Health
Jim Carry famous Canadian comedian
actor has publicly battled with depression

In fact 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime. We are dealing with a problem of unprecedented scope and our current model of mental health service delivery does not have the capacity to help all those in need. There are shortages of trained professionals, there is local disparity in availability of services, getting help can be quite costly, and there is still a lot of stigma associated with seeking help.

How do you make mental health services accessible to more people?

To solve this problem we need to innovate and introduce a new approach for helping people achieve mental health. We need a solution that can be delivered to the masses, a solution that allows people to seek help regardless of the stigma we have today, a solution where cost is a not a barrier for people, a solution that can be accessed from anywhere.

Luckily the technology for such solution already exists. I don’t mean technology in a narrow sense of digital technology, although that is part of the solution. I mean it in a broader sense, the application of scientific knowledge for a practical purpose, in this case improving mental health. When it comes to mental health the body of scientific knowledge is called clinical psychology. Psychologist in this field have been developing and validating treatments for decades now, and more recently shown that you can effectively use computers to deliver psychotherapy.

Great! so we know we can effectively deliver therapy through computers, and we know internet is a great way to deliver applications to the masses. So, if you can adapt the psychotherapies for an online environment you can deliver psychotherapy to many people, at a lower cost, they can remain anonymous, and they can access it from anywhere anytime!

With the help and support of a few friends I set out to build and deliver this solution. It was a tall order, after reviewing a lot of academic research, writing an entire therapy manual adapted for an online environment, building and configuring the website, setting up a non-profit organization and two and half years later, we are ready to share the fruits of our labour with you!

We call it Interactive Therapy (also known as Computer-Assisted Therapy), it's a therapy program delivered online that you can complete on your own. You go through a series of sessions and each session teaches you important techniques that have been shown to help people improve their mental health. Our first program is called “Bliss”, an 8 session long therapy program for depressed mood, and we are offering it completely free at this time.

The program is offered through the website of the Not-for-profit organization we setup, called CIMHS. It stands for “Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions”, I know it’s a mouthful but most not-for-profit names are, so just use the acronym, CIMHS. We strongly believe that such technology should be owned by everyone and that’s why we picked a not-for profit structure, and we plan on operating it as a social business.

The next chapter of the Mental Health Movement is about empowering individuals through technology, and providing them with the tools that can help them improve their mental health. To that end we have created CIMHS and built our first program Bliss. This is just a beginning and there is a lot more work left to do, so join our cause and help us write the next chapter of the Mental Health Movement.

You can help by volunteering your time, helping us spread the message, and using our program.

I want to thank Sara, Julie, and Josh for all their help with getting this setup, and numerous other friends and family members for their support and excitement as they cheered us on.

We are so excited to finally share this with you! Hope you enjoy it and we are looking forward to your feedback.

So please head over to the site and let us know what you think.


Kasra Zokaei
Founder and Executive Director