MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- Millions of Americans are affected by mental illness each year. Local attorney, Jonny McCoy, created a mental health app with hopes of helping some of them.
“I went through a really tough time in 200 where I witnessed a suicide while I was being unlawfully detained in a jail cell in Columbia,” said McCoy, CEO and Founder of White Flag.
McCoy suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
“I was silently suffering to the point where I almost died in 2018,” said McCoy.
McCoy said what helped save him was the peer-to-peer connection. After creating local support groups, he created a nationwide app called White Flag so people can have someone to reach out to 24/7.
“That, in and of itself, is enough to get most people through their darkest nights. Just knowing that somebody is there, just knowing that they have somebody who they can connect with,” said McCoy.
The app uses an algorithm to match people who are struggling with the same issues. McCoy said once an anonymous username is created, the user is taken to a screen where they raise their white flag for help. The app then asks them exactly what they’re suffering from and what they are dealing with.
McCoy said the app goes one step further. “Then, of course, your background issues. This is where you can really kind of zero in on who exactly you want to talk to. You can talk to somebody who’s in your same profession, like a teacher, or a police officer or frontline worker, or you can talk to somebody who’s been adopted. You can talk to LGBTQ+ members of the community.”
McCoy said this kind of help is needed now more than ever because of the pandemic. A CDC report surveyed adults in late June 2020 and found symptoms of anxiety and depression increased considerably compared to the same time pre-pandemic.
“We believe that we are at the beginning of the release of the stigma of people who are talking about mental health, either online or to each other,” said McCoy.
People can also join the app to be a supporter and talk to those in need. The app does have safety features including the ability to block and report a user if someone feels like they’re being harassed. That will be sent to the admin team to review. Hotline numbers are also available.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the average delay between the onset of symptoms and and treatment is 11 years. McCoy hopes the app will cut down on that time.
“We’re just here to talk about real people who are in real pain and real solutions before it gets too late. For most people who are dealing with mental health issues, it already is too late,” said McCoy.
The app will be available nationwide in early June and McCoy is looking for 1,000 beta testers.