Starling is here for you – and your family too.

Agency: Switchboard PR

Starling Minds is a Vancouver-based start-up that provides online mental health assessment and mental fitness training. Their model is to partner with organizations who want to provide affordable, convenient mental health support to their employees. Starling engaged Switchboard to create an onboarding toolkit for its client organizations to use to promote Starling amongst its employees. After developing that toolkit and creating a communication strategy for Starling, I subsequently worked with them to create monthly digital content to use internally and to share with their client organizations. For that content, I would identify a topic, interview any necessary story subjects, then write the story for various media. Below is a blog post I wrote for Starling.

“I got a call from my neighbour. She said, ‘You’d better sit down. I have something to tell you.’ She told me that my daughter had been cutting herself, and had shown the cuts to her friends at school.”

When Starling team member Niina Niemi found out that her then-12-year-old daughter was struggling with depression, Niina felt a lot of things: panic, sadness, shame, self-blame, frustration, confusion.

As a mother, Niina was also consumed with worry. “At work, I was constantly ruminating. Where is she? Is she at school? What if she does something? If she does, will they call me? Everytime my phone would ring, I would feel a sense of panic. What if it’s her? What if it’s not her? What if it’s her principal? What if something’s happened?”

At the end of the day, Niina says she was afraid to come home “in case I would find her in the bathtub with her wrists open.”

Years later Niina’s daughter is doing much better. When Niina found out about her cutting, she sought treatment from a registered psychologist.

“It wasn’t easy to find a psychologist. You can ask your friends to recommend a good optometrist or dentist, but with mental health it feels like you can’t do that because of the stigma. And when your only source of information is the Internet, and search engine results, you have no idea what information is legitimate and what isn’t.”

Niina says it didn’t help that she didn’t understand what she was going through. “This was before Starling,” she says. “I don’t think I really understood the reasons for being depressed. I’m always trying to fix things, to find a solution. This isn’t something you can just fix. It’s not just, ‘Be happy.’ It doesn’t work like that. It was a totally new world where I didn’t really know what to do to or how to help or what would be the best way to support her.”

Niina says she wishes she had known then what she knows now. “I think it’s very important for everyone to have a basic understanding of mental health, and it’s especially important for parents. If I had known more, I would have been in a better position to recognize warning signs in her, and to understand how to support her.”

Niina also thinks her daughter would have benefitted from the Starling program then, as she does now.

And that’s why Niina and the rest of the Starling team are thrilled to announce that the Starling program is now available to members’ immediate family.

“This was my daughter’s experience, of course, but mental illness affects whole families,” Niina says. “Extending the availability of Starling to the families of our members means fewer families will have to go through what ours did.”

To make Starling available to your family, sign in to your own account, click on your name in the top right corner, and select ‘Referral.’