Core identities of mental health service recipients

What kind of people become mental health service recipients? Anyone.

As we’ve been designing our Wellness Wordworks Program, we’ve put several surveys online to ask mental health service recipients how we should develop our program. We asked them what kind of prices they would be willing to pay for various services. Even though most mental health service recipients are in the poorest demographic in our country, they said it would be worth $200 a year or so for unlimited instant peer support via phone, video, email, and text.

mental health service recipients from California

Jay Mahler, one of the founders of the California Network of Mental Health Clients, with his T-shirt saying, "I am not a case and I do not need to be managed."

I learned in Fast Trac, a really good business development program that I completed, that market research is one of the most essential parts of the plan. In fact, during the finals of the Gigabit Challenge Business Competition last week, our local library interviewed several people about their favorite business books. One of them talked about The Lean Startup, which helped him understand how to find customers needs as the business developed. There are 25 million mental health service recipients in our country, and most have never even heard of peer support.

Our strategic mentor Paul Cumming put it this way, “Wherever the money is, that’s the magic.” I guess unless we are like big pharma and continue to market products that have been shown to hurt mental health service recipients.   We hope these people, our people, will be our direct customers. This is not an uprecedented model. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that ther are about 500 to 1000 direct pay family practice programs in the US now. We intend to create a direct pay mental health system using peer providers who are the most effective component of mental health care according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

As we’ve contacted potential customers, we’ve learned that very few of them identify as a mental health service recipients.  The question we asked was, “What is your core identity?”  We are showing the answer in a word cloud. We interviewed 63 people but only to top answers are shown to improve clarity.

According to,

Word clouds are computer generated images that contain almost all the words contained in a given text. The more a word is frequent, the bigger it is written. Consequently, word clouds are an effective way to show what some article, report or speech is really about. Word clouds can do this in two ways: the bigger a word is in a word cloud, the more the author of the corresponding text wanted you to keep in mind that particular word, and to associate that author with it. At the same time, and for the same reasons, the smallest a word is in a word cloud, the less the author really cared to elaborate on it (even if he or she says otherwise!).

Word clouds can be generated online with free, simple interfaces like WordItOut and Wordle. As an example, and to explain why they fascinate me, I made a word cloud at Wordle out of the september 2010 speech of Silvio Berlusconi. The biggest words include “maggioranza” (majority), “federalismo” (federalism) and “riforma” (reform). The smallest word are terms like “rispetto” (respect), “famiglie” (families) and “Giustizia” (justice).

Here is our word cloud of the key identities of 63 mental health service recipients:


If you one of our world’s mental health service recipients, who are you really? Let us know.

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