Co-founders Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi created Shine, an inclusive self-care app, to help make mental health resources accessible to diverse audiences. Angela Owens/WSJ

Frustrated that their own stressors, traumas, and other mental health challenges were often left out of the “wellness” conversation, Shine co-founders Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi set out to create the world’s most inclusive self-care app.

“We built the Shine app because my co-founder, an Asian woman, and I, a Black woman, were tired of not seeing our struggles represented in mainstream wellness,” says Lidey.

The women designed Shine to provide a mental health toolkit for people who’ve experienced hardships because of their skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, body size, religion, or any other characteristics that can lead to feeling “otherized.”

Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data highlights the need for inclusive mental health resources like Shine. In a June 2020 study, researchers pointed out that mental health conditions were disproportionately affecting certain groups, including young adults and Hispanic and Black populations.

The co-founders have raised more than 10 million dollars to make Shine — led by an 80 percent BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) team — the successful mental health resource it is today. The Best of 2020 Apple App Store pick now has more than 25 thousand 5-star reviews.

Lidey and Hirabayash met as co-workers at a not-for-profit tech company, but neither of them went to business school, and they didn’t know any investors.

Lidey shares that at first, the co-founders didn’t know the lingo and had terrible poker faces when it came to fundraising. But they remained confident in their mission and, with the help of their supporters and partners, they managed to raise the money they needed, time and again.

“The deck may be stacked against people who look like us, but ultimately there is no tech industry without founders who are solving problems they are experiencing,” Lidey says. “We’ve learned that our authenticity is our superpower.”

Shine is designed to help users incorporate simple self-care practices into their daily lives. Lidey shares how people get the most out of the app.

Most users start their day by listening to the Daily Shine, a daily meditation that’s rooted in present times and contextualized with what’s happening in the world.

That meditation, paired with a daily article, community discussion, and reflection prompts, is how most members set themselves up to tackle their day.

For those who want more social connection and have more time, Shine’s premium membership includes in-depth meditations, monthly events hosted by industry experts, and access to the Shine team and other members through a private offline community.

After more than a year of pandemic challenges, Shine community members have expressed that they’re feeling both hopeful and apprehensive about the future.

“In our own data, we’ve seen a rise in work anxiety,” says Lidey. “Industry-wide, we’re also seeing a spike in resignations, with a reported 40 percent of employees considering leaving their jobs.”

She explains that it can be hard for employees to ignore the stress of returning to work environments that may not have made much progress on the diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) front — especially considering the social injustices of 2020.

With a focus on the intersection of mental health and inclusion, Shine is uniquely positioned to tackle such workplace challenges, which is why the company and recently launched Shine at Work, a mental health program geared toward businesses.

“We are already seeing strong growth from companies that are hungry to prioritize their employees’ well-being,” says Lidey.

As Shine continues to evolve, Lidey is constantly challenged and inspired by the membership community and her team.

“This has been the journey of a lifetime, and I’m just so grateful to be surrounded by people who are so motivated to help others like them feel less alone in what they’re going through,” says Lidey. “It’s pretty magical.”

Listen to Shine on the “Inside Mental Health” podcast

Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of “Inside Mental Health,” a Psych Central podcast, featuring Shine co-founders Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi.

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