When Sophie Gray started journaling for her mental health, she didn’t realize she’d eventually incorporate it into an app. In fact, she didn’t even know how to make an app.
The inspiration for DiveThru, an app that “helps you take charge of your mental health,” came after Gray experienced a panic attack on a flight from the Hamptons to Toronto. Instead of getting on the connecting flight to Edmonton, Gray drove 38 hours across the country to get home. It was then that she decided to take charge and work on her mental health.
“When I arrived home, I was like, ‘OK, I can no longer pretend I’m fine because I’m not, I need to finally face what’s going on and address my mental health.’ So I did that,” says Gray. “I stepped back from the business that I had built, I took a big step back from social media, but still shared occasionally, and really worked on my mental health.”
At the time, Gray was a fitness influencer with about 500,000 followers on Instagram. Her brand, Way of Gray, promoted healthy eating and exercising, and her feed consisted mainly of ab-baring photos. What Gray’s followers didn’t know was that she was suffering on the other side of the camera.
Gray took up writing to work through her thoughts in a process she calls “journal therapy.” She started journaling her experiences with panic attacks to work through what she was feeling, and she later started teaching journaling workshops out of her home. This inspired the first iteration of DiveThru, which launched in 2019 as a journaling app. The app featured writing prompts to help people work through their experiences and emotions, however, the app was destined for much more.
In 2020, DiveThru expanded and became a hub of mental-health activities and resources including journaling prompts, and courses on topics like expressing gratitude and understanding trauma. Most of the resources are free for app users, but DiveThru also offers a paid premium subscription that offers unlimited access to the entire library of resources.
The newest feature is a three-step daily deep dive. The first step asks users how they’re feeling, specifically what emotions and what’s contributing to those emotions whether it’s work, home, dating, etc. Then the app guides the user through a 60-second breathing exercise. Afterwards, users are encouraged to do two journal prompts and they’re given the choice to write in the app or on paper. When I tried the app, the prompts were “What about this morning makes it so good?” and “How can I remember how I’m feeling on my not so great days?”
In the span of three years, DiveThru went from being a one-woman-show to having a team of 18 members. The app has been downloaded in over 90 countries and one of DiveThru’s greatest accomplishments from 2021 was closing on a pre-seed of $800,000. While grateful for the investment, Gray notes that raising funding for a startup is emotionally draining, especially when only 2.3 per cent of women in startups receive venture capital. Knowing that the app is making a difference is what pushes Gray to keep going, even on the toughest days.
“The impact that we are making and have made — I could just be a puddle of tears because this is something that I needed,” says Gray. “Knowing that other people need that too, and to be able to offer that is just truly such an honour. I know on the deepest level what it feels like to not want to be here and to feel trapped in your mind and to feel unsafe in your mind. So if I can offer a way for someone to feel even one per cent less than feeling like that then I’ve done my job here.”
If you are feeling the strain, it’s important to know you are not alone. Help is out there. Alberta Health Services’ mental-help line is available 24/7, at 1-877-303-2642. The addiction help line number is 1-866-332-2322. When it all becomes too much, the bravest thing you can do is ask for help. Please, do not suffer in silence.