Sharing my mental health experience with millions of Reddit users

Aaron Labbé
June 23, 2020
5 minute read
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Despite being a passionate technologist and proud new media artist, when our marketing lead, Carol, asked me to do an Reddit AMA for Mental Health Week, I had no idea what she was talking about. I certainly had no idea how big of a deal these things were. She explained to me that it stood for ‘Ask Me Anything’ and provided a space for people to do just that - ask someone about a particular experience, product, or well, pretty much anything.

Being that our product is designed to serve the mental health community, and being that I have lived-in experience with mental health, we figured it would be a great time to reach out to the community. Not only was it an opportunity to share our new release, but it was more so an opportunity to share a story of perseverance to a community that is often told they ‘can’t’ do things. She predicted that the AMA would be something I could maintain in the background since we’re pretty small, and didn't expect a ton of traffic. I happily agreed to participate.

I did the whole process, taking a grainy computer selfie for Twitter while holding up a sheet of paper to prove my identity. I took the experience very seriously, as I’ve always said that I have a primary and secondary goal for my experience with LUCID. The first is to architect medicinal solutions for mental health using music, and the second is to use the platform to share my story and give hope to others who are living through similar situations. You see, it's unfortunate, but generally speaking the mental health system isn’t great at empathy. I had a doctor tell me to my face that I should start coping with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to finish school, or hold a professional job; that people with my ‘condition’ often need to be in spaces where they are not required to hold a lot of responsibility. Inspired by those experiences, I titled my AMA “I am diagnosed Bi-Polar 1, and went from forced hospitalizations to being co-founder & CTO of a music and mental health startup.”

The day of the AMA came. I had the Reddit window open on one screen and some other work on the other. We went live, and a couple of interesting questions rolled in. I gladly answered them, taking breaks here and there for work. A lot of the questions came from people who also faced mental health challenges, which set off some mind-opening and truly insightful discussions in the comment section. There was even a question about Kanye West.

Then something really amazing happened - the post stared gaining traction. And it didn’t stop for over 12 hours...we quickly rose to the top of the r/IamA subreddit with over 20 million members. At the height of the day, the post reached top three in the subreddit’s “Hot” posts, and even received a “Bow Award” from a kind Reddit stranger.

Post after post of beautiful comments and shares from people all over the world. Everything from people thanking me for sharing my story to asking me for advice, and asking about how they can use VIBE to help with their own experiences. We even received multiple job inquiries and questions on how to get involved. The most amazing thing about it was the fact that through all of the posts, we only had 2 trolls or negatively charged comments. Everything else (and there was A LOT of content) was very uplifting and pure.

I can honestly say that I was not expecting the level of virality that we got to. I started getting text messages from a number of friends who were just cruising reddit and stumbled upon the AMA. My facebook feed was flooded with notifications of people sharing it on their news feeds and tagging me.

I have zero shame for any aspect of my life experience but things got really personal in the thread and suddenly I felt really exposed. Never in my life has my story been this public, but I just kept getting so much positive energy on that feed. Eventually it was past midnight and I had spent my day managing this AMA like a full-time job. At one point I had to call in reinforcements to help answer some of the more simple questions about LUCID.

It was an emotionally moving day for me and it seemed like it was for a lot of other people in the community too. Although overwhelming at times, it will be remembered as one of my many fond memories in my experience here at LUCID.

You can check out the full AMA here!