By John M. Grohol, Psy.D., Psych Central’s founder & CEO
In 1990, I started my first year in graduate school studing clinical psychology in Florida. Within a few months of moving to South Florida, tragic news followed — my childhood best friend, Robby, had committed suicide. I was devastated. So was his entire family, especially his mom.
After coming home to Delaware to attend the funeral, I found myself lost in grief and depression. The loss seemed so senseless. He had suffocated himself in his car, parked in a farm field in the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. He made this decision because of a serious relationship that had ended. Robby and I had been friends since we were 3 years old.
Like almost anyone who’s ever lost someone to suicide, I thought to myself, “If only I was here… I could’ve prevented this tragic and unnecessary death. We were best friends… I would’ve known.”
I traveled back to Florida and continued my psychology studies, and learned how common suicide was, especially amongst teens and young adults such as my friend. I was resolved to change how people learn about mental health issues such as suicide and depression, and find a way to reduce the stigma associated with these disorders.
In 1991, I took my first and only course about the Internet. While I had run bulletin board systems (BBSs) in high school and college, and was on Compuserve and Prodigy (having done some consulting for the latter), this was my first real exposure to the raw internet. And raw it was — unadulterated and difficult-to-find content and resources. The web was still years away, so most communication was done on email lists and Usenet newsgroups.
It was also in 1991 that I discovered alt.support.depression, a self-help support group (on Usenet) for people suffering from depression. And then I knew: this was it — the Internet. This was how people could help themselves and learn more about mental health concerns such as suicide and depression. Empower people to become experts in their own self-care through information and mutual self-help support. Most mental health care is done without a professional’s help or intervention, because most people never seek formal treatment for a mental health concern. So why not reach people where they are, with the information and resources that could help them most?
That’s how my own personal journey dedicated to helping reduce the stigma associated with mental health concerns and reach out to those who were in emotional need began. I started indexing the online support groups I could find back then (dozens), and regularly published that index on the Internet. I updated and maintained the list for 4 years, and then transferred it to the Web in 1995. These original efforts were the foundation for Psych Central.
I’ve been publishing this kind of helpful information and resources online in order to prevent more tragedies like the one Robby’s family suffered.1
Psych Central’s homepage over the years.
I’ve always believed in doing things for yourself, and Psych Central is a reflection of that philosophy. We’ve grown the site completely organically, through word-of-mouth, a lot of hard work, and countless long days. We have touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people who have visited our site since we first went online. We now reach millions of people each and every month from over 134 countries around the world.
Every week, we receive emails from people who’s lives we have influenced and, in some cases, saved. This is the mission and heart of what we do here at Psych Central. And this is why we come to work each and every day.
In 2009, we officially incorporated our nonprofit work into the Psych Central Community Connection, a 501(c)3 public charity that provides micro-grants to individuals of the Psych Central community in immediate need.
Thank you for finding us. And thank you for helping to spread the word and reduce the stigma associated with mental health concerns.
If you’d like, you’re welcomed to view a short, 3-minute music photo slideshow that illustrates some fond moments of my life with Robby.
- His mother died 2 years later from a broken heart. . [↩]