It’s almost a cliche to complain about the alienating effects of technology, but the Internet is an amazing resource for combating isolation. Sites and online forums mean people who suffer from stigmatized conditions like depression can find support that was unavailable just a decade ago. Now Y Combinator startup 7 Cups of Tea wants to help connect people in need of emotional support with the site’s trained listeners.
Founded by clinical psychologist Glen Moriarty, 7 Cups of Tea positions itself as an alternative for people who need more immediate support than an online forum but don’t want to see a therapist (though if necessary, listeners will refer callers to mental health professionals). Users can start with text chats and then switch to voice calls when they feel more comfortable, as well as request specific listeners. 7 Cups Of Tea, which is named after a poem by Chinese poet Lu Tong and soft-launched at the end of July, currently has over 100 listeners and gets 1,000 call requests a week.
“The vast majority of people are not struggling with any really significant disorders. They are just going through a hard time. Maybe their kids are overwhelming them or their marriage is not working out right. They might have a lot of questions about things, like ‘is this normal?’ and feel like they can’t talk to anyone about it,” Moriarty says. “They just want to share it with someone.”