It doesn’t take long to come up with a list of factors contributing to the current increase in mental health crises across the United States. A pandemic, economic uncertainty, prolonged isolation, conversations about race relations …
By Marisa Steffens
Jokes about “quarantinis” lose their humor as studies continue to point to an increase in substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, and hopelessness in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and the events following George Floyd’s death.
While this rise in mental-health struggles is one of the most concerning side effects of 2020 events, the issue is, of course, nothing new. One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, and suicide remains the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34. Amplified by lockdowns and faced with factors like stress, loss, and loneliness anxieties are heightened, but so is spiritual openness. People are searching for comfort and hope.
And where do they turn? They open their smartphones.
Neil Ahlsten, CEO and co-founder of Carpenter’s Code, noticed a significant uptick in usage within their digital Christian meditation resource, Abide, starting at the end of March 2020. This coincides with a dramatic surge in Google searches for prayer across the globe. By April, four million people in 210 different countries were using Abide to help with anxiety, depression and day-to-day worries.
“Over and over again, the word that comes up is grief,” Ahlsten said. “People are grieving a lot of things right now – injustice, the pandemic, job loss, financial loss, being away from people and feeling lonely. We’re able to give them a connection to Scripture and uplift them.”
By April, four million people in 210 different countries were using Abide to help with anxiety, depression and day-to-day worries.
Abide launched as a mobile app in 2014 with the support of a group of NCF givers who had met Ahlsten through Lion’s Den – a pitch event for missionary businesses. They connected through Impact Foundation to invest their charitable capital in the new project.
Abide has evolved into a media company that provides peace-giving biblical meditation and prayer content through several digital channels. Upon browsing their app, a user will encounter audio meditation titles such as, “Healing Prayers: Calm Anxious Thoughts (Matthew 6),” “The Source of Hope (Romans 15:13),” and “Deeply Loved (Luke 15).”
Today, Abide is one of the top Christian resources in the App Store. They receive reviews full of gratitude from people who’ve used the app to renew their faith and turn to Scripture through grief, depression, and other spiritual and mental health struggles. Instead of drowning out the world with the latest Netflix show, users saturate their minds with the truth of God’s Word.
During COVID-19 lockdowns, the Abide team noticed an increase in traffic within the app’s Psalms series, where users find comfort in assurances of God’s love in the midst of pain and uncertainty.
And one of the most popular categories within Abide’s content is sleep. Abide’s YouTube channel alone helps more than a million viewers fall asleep each month. Recently, Ahlsten has heard from healthcare professionals who are using Abide to find peace and sleep before reentering the front lines of the pandemic each day.
Abide’s YouTube channel alone helps more than a million viewers fall asleep each month.
“They’re able to use the content to understand God’s love, to wind down and to get in a place where they can feel at peace, protected, loved and can rest,” Ahlsten said. “We’re actually helping doctors be successful because they can sleep and be refreshed, as they should be. God designed us to sleep.”
Impact Foundation is a ministry providing NCF givers a streamlined way to put their Giving Fund (also known as a donor-advised fund) resources to work in transformational companies. Abide is just one of several companies within their portfolio that found itself on the front lines of the mental health crisis of 2020. rTribe – a faith-based addiction recovery app – provides a safe, anonymous community and telehealth counseling resources for people struggling with addiction, unhealthy relationships and other isolating behaviors. Global Counseling Network is another leader in Christian mental telehealth services which provides digital access to high-quality and affordable counselors wherever they are needed.
Because these faith-driven entrepreneurs and investors chose kingdom impact first and profit margins second, they were prepared, ahead of time, to meet people in their pain and need at just the right time. If you’d like to learn more about investing in redemptive companies, contact Impact Foundation to see if impact investing might be right for you.