SAN ANTONIO — The pandemic has reignited conversations about the importance of mental health, which is why two entrepreneurs in San Antonio developed an app called We Tree as a way to address the nationwide challenge faced by millions of Americans.
“The pandemic really just took everything that we’re all struggling with and just blew it up into HD vision,” said Lorenzo Gomez III.
Gomez alongside his friend and colleague Steve Cunningham have both dealt with various struggles prompted by the pandemic, including isolation and suppression of feelings.
“Mental health for me means not just the absence of mental illness, but how do we flourish as human beings as well so it’s not just about treating illness, it’s about getting better over time,” Cunningham said.
We Tree has been in development since February after consultation with professionals in the medical fields in addition to research on current and past methods of caring for one’s mental health.
Gomez explained how the name We Tree was inspired from the biblical passage: Psalms 1:3.
“A tree needs a water source, which we think is your community of friends and family, the people that love you. A tree needs a light source and we think that one of the problems of mental health is people need to shine a light on the things that they’re struggling with, they need to be transparent,” Gomez said.
The app is designed to create deep, authentic connections around what matter most and to monitor day by day how groups of people are doing while at the same time looking out for each other.
The Mental Health Minute of using the app is designed to gauge a user’s feelings on a scale of 1-5 about a variety of topics while sparking a thought-provoking response to questions about their mental wellbeing.
“We’re one of the only apps that’s trying not to get you addicted to another app. We want to get you off the app and back into an interaction with the people that you love,” Gomez said.
“It’s very intuitive to just go through and select how you’re feeling for the day and then there’s these two open ended questions at the end,” Cunningham said.
The We Tree app also provides users an inner circle where members can see how each other is feeling.
“You see their highs and their lows. You support folks and encourage the ones that are doing well that day and you check up and offer your support to the ones who are having some lows,” Cunningham said.
The subscription-based app has more than 5,000 customers so far. Students at Trinity University are among the first to test out We Tree.
“What’s grown out of the last two years of experience is really the sense of isolation and a need to connect with one another,” said Luis Martinez, Trinity University’s director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Internal struggles experienced by young people have bee captured in recent stories about the suicide deaths of three American college athletes. One of the athletes was 20-year-old Lauren Bernett, a sophomore who played catcher on the James Madison University’s softball team.
Martinez hopes the impacts of We Tree leads to positive long-lasting impacts for decades to come.
“We’re looking for ways to strengthen the bonds that people have with each other and this ability for you to quickly check in on your friends and with yourself was something that we found really, really appealing.”
We Tree is slated to be available on mobile devices starting with iOS devices beginning in the next couple weeks.