ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — Evelyn Lugo of Englewood works with nonprofits, but as of Jan. 1, she’ll have another job, too: happy giver.
The 31-year-old is one of 1,600 people who will deliver emotional support over the phone to individuals feeling depressed, stressed or overwhelmed.
How will the two find each other?
“I feel that before Happy, there was a stigma to feeling stressed and reaching out for help,” Lugo said. “Or it was that you had to be severely depressed.”
But Happy, she added, is an outlet for average people who just need someone to really listen to them.
It’s not for people who are mentally ill.
Happy givers aren’t therapists. They’re vetted, trained peers who care.
“Before Happy, it seemed a suicide line was the only option,” Lugo said.
A call is cheaper than therapy, too.
The happy giver makes $15 an hour, prorated per minute. The caller pays $25 an hour.
Will there be demand? Happy says yes.
A total of 77 percent of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms brought on by stress, according to The American Institute of Stress.
As for loneliness, that’s high, too. One national study shows as many as 35 percent of Americans are chronically lonely.
Happy, the app, came about when 38-year-old Jeremy Fischbach, one of its five founders, went through a difficult time professionally and personally last year. He tried to reach out for support.
“I was looking for somebody to give me some compassion and encouragement, even attention,” Fischbach said.
He has 10 favorite friends and family members. But he couldn’t reach most of them.
Seven of the 10 calls he placed went directly to voicemail. Two of those who answered his call didn’t have time to talk.
During the one call that connected him with someone, he found it difficult to ask for support.
“A lot of the people I called consider me their rock, their source of strength,” Fischbach said.
“I value that,” he added, “but asking them for help compromises the role I play for them.”
He wanted to be able to push a "Get Happy" button and hear the voice of a supportive, everyday person, just like Lugo.
That’s exactly what Happy will do.
For more information about Happy, the app, CLICK HERE .