Meet the co-founders of The Depression Project

Two brothers from Australia: One an ex-depression-sufferer, the other a counsellor disenchanted with the current mental health industry.

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Mathew Baker

Danny Baker

Co-founder, Head of Marketing & Strategy, Ex-Depression-Sufferer

If you've read my memoir Depression is a Liar, then you'll know that I've always had the feeling that I'm a very lucky person: to have been brought up in a wonderful neighbourhood; to be surrounded by a loving, supportive family; and to have had the opportunity to do anything I wanted to in life. And, you'll also know that I always wanted to use my blessings for good - to try to help other people who weren't as fortunate as myself. For this reason, while I was studying at university, I become heavily involved in charity- and non-profit work, and I was committed to staying involved for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, though, around that time back in 2008, I also found myself struggling with negative thoughts like "I'm a failure", "I'm hopeless" and "I'm a loser". I struggled with feelings of worthlessness, and on many days, I absolutely hated myself. I felt completely overwhelmed and exhausted by life, and I found myself wishing I was dead and fantasising about killing myself.

Eventually, I saw a doctor and was diagnosed with depression. However, like so many people when they're diagnosed, I was prescribed medication and then shown the door - without ever being given a clear, straightforward treatment plan that I could follow to recover. Left to basically figure out how to beat depression on my own, I spent the first two years of my illness doing all of the wrong things to get better – which ultimately, led to alcoholism, drug abuse and medicine-induce psychosis, before pushing me to the brink of suicide.

There were many days that I'd felt suicidal, but I remember that day very clearly. I was standing outside my university in the pouring rain, desperately trying to fight off the urge to end my life by jumping in front of a speeding car. In the past, I'd always thought that suicide was selfish, because even though it may have given me peace, I knew it would've left my family in ruins. But in that moment, on what was, unquestionably, the worst day of my life, my depression had tricked me into believing that maybe I'd been wrong.

Because I swear, I vividly remember thinking, if my family knew how depressed I feel right now, they'd want me to end it all and finally be free.

It was a dangerous, dangerous revelation to make.

Does this mean I can die now? I thought. Guilt-free and with my family's blessing?

The rain continued to pour down on top of me.

Can I really do it? Can I really jump in front of a speeding car and kill myself?

I stood at a right-angle to the road, watching the cars zooming past.

Is this really it? Can I really end it all right here?

My mind was a warzone. So much conflict. But eventually, there emerged a definite answer.

No.

I can’t do it.

It’s the same answer I’d always reached, but this time, the reason was different.

It wasn’t for me.

It wasn’t even for my family.

It was for those less fortunate than me.

Regardless of how depressed I feel right now, I remember thinking, I know that I’ve been tremendously blessed: with a loving, supportive family; with First World privileges; and with the opportunity and the ability to do whatever I want to in life. Regardless of how depressed I feel right now, I have had a lot bestowed upon me, and I have to use my good fortune to help others who aren’t as immensely privileged as I am. If I kill myself, the charity I'd just set up will disband. All the great work I'd planned on doing will never get done. I’d be abandoning all the people I have the capacity to help. And no matter how much pain I’m in I just can’t do that. To whom much is given, much is expected. I can’t kill myself. Not now, not ever.

I felt it so strongly, with such paramount force that it couldn't be doubted. So, I stepped away from the road, called my mum to pick me up, and shortly afterwards checked into a psych ward.

Inside the psych ward, I met countless people who’d been crippled with depression for 5, 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. And, like me, aside from being prescribed a medication, they too had never been given much guidance or treatment to ever get better.

“I’ll never get over it,” I'd always hear them say. “There is no way to beat this illness."

"We'll always find ourselves back in this place. We'll get out, and if we're lucky, we'll stay out for a while - may two or three years. But we'll always relapse back into depression, and when the depression's at its worst, we'll find ourselves right back in this hospital again."

"Depression is just a part of who I am, and it will be this way until the day I die."

When I heard all this, I was so, so scared.

Is this true? I remember panicking. I’m only 21 years old – is this my future? Is this my destiny – to spend the rest of my life consumed by my illness, and going in and out of this psych ward time and time again?

It probably would have been. However like I said, I was blessed to have a caring, understanding family, who not only supported me through everything, but who also convinced me to see a psychologist, and who even paid for the sessions as well (since as a student, there was no way I could’ve afforded them myself).

To cut a long story short, I then worked really, really hard with my therapist; committed to living a healthy lifestyle; and completely changed career paths – with the result being that by the start of 2012 a couple of years later, I’d beaten my depression for good. Since then, I’ve been happy, healthy and loving my life, and during that time, a lot of incredible things have happened to me!

  • I discovered my dream job of being an author/entrepreneur.
  • I recently married the love of my life!
  • Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve been travelling around the world non-stop working on my businesses and doing research for my next book.

But I know that I got really, really lucky.

I know that for every lucky one of me, there are many more people who aren’t supported by such a caring, understanding family, and who feel misunderstood, dismissed and lonely as a result.

I know that for every lucky one of me, there are many more people who are perpetually trapped in depression – because they’ve never been given a clear, step-by-step depression treatment plan; let alone had access to a therapist who could teach them the strategies they need to recover.

I know that for every lucky one of me who found an incredible therapist that was able to really help them, there are many more people who didn’t have such a positive experience in therapy for any number of reasons.

I know that for every lucky one of me, there are many more people who rather than getting the help they needed and being fortunate enough to live their dreams, ended up dying by suicide instead.

And, because I am - and have always been - a very blessed, lucky and fortunate person, I believe more passionately than ever that it's my obligation to try to give back, and to help other people who aren't as privileged as I am. In particular, when it comes to mental health, I want to do everything in my power to help current sufferers of depression:

  • Be understood and supported like I was.
  • Be able to receive a clear treatment plan that they can follow to get better (like I eventually did).
  • Be able to learn the strategies they need to know in order to beat depression and go on to live the happy, healthy life they want.

And so, fuelled by these motivations, I co-founded The Depression Project with my brother Mathew - who for his own individual reasons, had a burning desire to do something special to help people with depression as well.

Mathew Baker

Mathew Baker

Co-founder, Head of Content Creation, Professional Counsellor

To become a therapist, there’s a pretty standard path you’re expected to follow – study for 5 or 6 years, get your qualifications, and then begin working one-on-one with clients. I started along this path studying a Bachelor’s in Psychology, but the deeper I got into it, the more I grew disheartened by the industry I’d originally dreamed of entering. This disenchantment continued to grow while I did my Master’s of Counselling, and it grew even more so in my early years after graduating, when I worked in a range of settings including in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, with at-risk youth, and in a homeless refuge. By that point in time, my problems with the industry had become crystal clear.

Problem #1

I didn’t like it that clients were rarely given a clear value proposition in their sessions. Put another way, a step-by-step breakdown of what will be covered in each session and how it will help the client overcome depression is usually never provided, and as a result, many clients’ experience of therapy is that it lacks direction, clarity, and worst of all value.

Problem #2

I didn’t like it how therapy sessions weren’t subject to any form of quality control, and that they didn’t come with any satisfaction or money-back guarantee. And, when you combine this with Problem #1, it results in people with depression commonly losing $1,000+ on a handful of unhelpful therapy sessions; being unwilling to try again with a different therapist out of fear of losing another $1,000+; and then for lack of any alternative ways to get better, being indefinitely saddled with their depression.

So here's what I did ...

To provide a service that was much more patient-friendly, at age 25 I ventured out on my own to start a counselling practice that had three distinguishing features from its traditional counterparts:

  1. The first session would always be free – to give patients a risk-free opportunity to try me out.

  2. After the free first session, I would prepare a detailed treatment plan for the client that would explain exactly why they were suffering from depression, as well as the exact strategies they needed to learn and the actions they needed to take in order to overcome it. Knowing precisely what we’d be covering together in future sessions, they were then free to choose whether they wanted to continue working with me or not.

  3. If they did choose to continue working with me, then not only would they know the exact direction we’d be heading in together, but every session would also be subject to a 100%, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee – which would ensure that every single session would have built-in quality control, and that people with depression would never have to pay a cent for our therapy sessions together unless it brought them considerable value.

In short, my business model took all of the risk off the client’s shoulders (where 100% of it had traditionally been), and placed it solely on my shoulders as the therapist (where it had never been). And it was a big success! Within three months of starting I had a list of paying clients who loved the service they were receiving, and since all of the sessions took place online, I had the freedom to travel around the world while I helped them overcome depression.

However, as satisfying as it was to have my new practice going so well and to be providing what I strongly believe was a vastly superior service than that offered through the traditional model, there was an additional issue that I grew to have with it – and that’s that it wasn’t scalable nor widely accessible.

In other words, because therapists can only work with about 50 clients at any one time, it meant that even though I’d developed a much more patient-friendly system of therapy, it could inherently only ever benefit the tiniest fraction of the world’s patients. Not only that, but it was also no use to all the people who can’t afford therapy – which as it turns out, is the vast majority of people who struggle with depression. This really bothered me, because I wanted to help everyone. I wanted to help build a world where every single one of the 350 million people who battle this illness have access to the insight, the strategies and the blueprint they need to beat it.

So, instead of continuing to expand my practice (which would’ve still only resulted in helping the tiniest fraction of depression’s victims), I gradually wound it down, stopped travelling around the world, and co-founded The Depression Project with my brother Danny. And, in the course of doing so, I’m proud to have:

Created The Ground-Breaking Storm To Sun Framework

  • Which makes it much, much easier for people to understand their depression; to know exactly what they need to do to get better; and to have an easy way of explaining their depression to their loved ones in order to receive the support they need.

Created Depression School

  • Which takes all of the strategies that people would pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn in therapy and makes them widely available at scale for a fraction of the price. Of course, every single book and online course in Depression School also comes with a 100%, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee – to ensure that people with depression only ever pay for something that they actually find helpful and worthwhile.

We’ve Also Decreased Depression’s Stigma

  • The Depression Project has also been at the forefront of helping non-sufferers better understand depression – having had our social media posts which educate about the illness being viewed over two billion times.

And, we're only just getting started!

While we’re pleased with what we’ve achieved so far, The Depression Project is only just getting started. We’re laser-focused on creating a world where every single person receives the support, care and can learn the strategies they need in order to beat their depression, and we won’t stop until this is a reality.

All our love️,

Danny & Mathew Baker

Co-founders of The Depression Project
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