Jason Docton- Gaming to Save Lives

Jason Docton is the CEO and founder of Rise Above The Disorder (RAD) a nonprofit promoting mental health in the gaming world and beyond.

Not realizing he was experiencing agoraphobia, Jason dropped out of med school and became increasingly isolated besides being an avid player of World of Warcraft. On the brink of suicide,  he decided to do one last final act – save someone else’s life first. Jason began crowd-fundraising for mental healthcare via his gaming guild, Anxiety Gaming.

Since then, Jason and his organization, which is now Rise Above The Disorder have helped over 40,000 people from across 135 countries receive free mental health care.

 **TRIGGER WARNING. This episode contains conversations about suicide and other mental health issues. If you are triggered or would like to talk to a confidential advocate, please dial the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. If you want to learn more about mental health and find possible resources, please visit this Ruderman Family Foundation link.

In conversation with Jay, they discuss his incredible personal journey into activism and how creating RAD taught him that mental healthcare is a basic human right.

To learn more about Rise Above the Disorder, click here.


Jay Ruderman: Hi, Jay here. Before we dive in, I want to jump in and say this episode does discuss depression and suicide. If those topics are triggering for you, you might consider skipping this one. Please take care of yourself. Ok, now on to our show.

Jason Docton:  I go back to the guild and I’m like, Hey, I know this was just kind of a thing that we did, but like, we gotta help this kid. this isn’t right.

Jay Ruderman: Hi, I’m Jay Ruderman and welcome to All About Change, a podcast showcasing individuals who leverage the hardships that have been thrown at them to better other people’s lives.

[Show Intro]

Jay Ruderman: and Today on our show, Jason Docton.

Jason Docton:  It was just the worst. everything was just declining.

Jay Ruderman: Growing up, Jason was a serious gamer. He was a  World of Warcraft guild leader – and if you have no idea what that means, don’t worry, you’re in good company. I had no idea either. We will get all into that.  After graduating, Jason went on to med school. But the pressure he was experiencing drove him to dark places –

Jason Docton: Uh, nobody explained it was a panic attack or, you know, that this can happen. you know, when you’re really stressed out, overworked, overwhelmed. It was just, you’re fine. Finals are fine. go home. Uh, you know, uh oh, okay.

Jay Ruderman: Not realizing he was experiencing agoraphobia, Jason dropped out and became increasingly isolated.  He sank in to a deep depression and began planning for his end. But he decided that before taking his own life he would do one last final act – save someone else’s life first.

Jason Docton:  I didn’t want to be in the world anymore, but I didn’t wanna leave a world that was like this. Maybe if I could convince someone who, like myself was thinking of leaving this world, you know, to not leave this world, to stay, Maybe that would somehow balance things out.

Jay Ruderman: Jason, as you can hear, is still with us. And I am so glad he is. What started as a one off personal ‘good dead’ project, turned into his life mission. Today, Jason is the CEO and founder of RAD – Rise Above The Disorder, a nonprofit promoting mental health in the gaming world and beyond. Jason is a strong believer that mental healthcare is a basic human right. Jason and his organization have helped over 40,000 people from across 135 countries receive free mental health care. He is with us today to share his incredible personal journey and story of activism.


Jay Ruderman: Jason Docton, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome, as my guest on all About Change, I’m excited to have this conversation.

Jason Docton: Likewise, Jay. Pleasure to meet you.

Jay Ruderman: So let’s start when you were, uh, in medical school. And maybe you can just take us back to what was going on in your life at that time and what changed, you know, while you were in medical school.

Jason Docton: I was trying to grind out as many hours as I could. to get into medical school, you know, a lot of the schools required that you had some kind of medical background. You worked as a cna or you worked as an emt, medical records and billings, something in, in the field. And so, you know, I was working as an EMT for a long time. and, you know, when I got into medical school, given the already enormous bills, you know, I just kept working as an EMT. So I was doing maybe 12 hour shifts or so, on and off the ambulance and starting school in med school going, you know, nine or so hours a day, plus whatever was needed for studying.

On a good day I probably slept four hours. So yeah, it just doesn’t work. Um, you can’t, can’t sacrifice all of that sleep. You know, over time it really started to get to me, uh, started to get pretty on edge, pretty keyed up. Think one night I was, I was coming home, from Chabes dinner with, some friends and, uh, I had a really bad panic attack.

And, you know, with the, the medical knowledge I had, it was, it was just enough to realize that however I was feeling was not good. but not enough to realize that potentially, you know, this was just a panic attack. or, or even really what a panic attack was. It just seemed like, oh no, I might be having a heart attack.

Heart was racing. My limbs started to really go numb. and then it’s just the sheer terror and like my mind was completely hijacked and focused on something is happening. I’m, I think I might be dying, what do I do? and it, it just didn’t, I didn’t pause to try and actually resolve or, or check in with myself or do vitals. You know, I end up calling 9 1 1 and, um, they, they take me to, the ER and it doesn’t seem like anything is going on, but nobody really explained either. Uh, nobody explained it was a panic attack or, you know, that this can happen. you know, when you’re really stressed out, overworked, overwhelmed. It was just, you’re fine. Finals are fine. go home. Uh, you know, uh oh, okay. Um,

Jay Ruderman: didn’t really help.

Jason Docton: no, you know, and this is something that would keep happening to me. and it just made sense in my head that, okay, so anytime I go to work, you know, I have these panic attacks.

know, maybe, maybe I stopped going to work for a bit. Okay, now it’s happening when I go to school, maybe I stopped going to school for a bit, taking a few days off to a few weeks off, two months off to semester off, the year off. and then it made sense at the time, you know, anytime I left the house, now this was starting to happen, so maybe I just don’t leave the house.

Jay Ruderman: So you were in medical school and at some point you said, that’s it. I’m, I’m taking a break. I’m, I’m, I can’t do this because of the panic attacks.

Jason Docton: Sure. I mean, I couldn’t do anything in school or at work anyways. There was just that constant crippling fear. The anxiety, the, does anybody else notice this? Should I say anything? Do I do anything? You know, just made sense to keep going home. And in, you know, the way my brain, my body is translating this is okay, So this keeps happening. And whenever we go home, we feel a lot better. So maybe that’s, that’s the place that we need to be. That’s the safest spot. So let’s just keep going home.

Jay Ruderman: right. So, okay. After you dropped out of school and you’re at home, what are you doing with your time?

Jason Docton: playing video games. Uh, you know, there, there was really not much else to do. you know, I’d been playing this game, World of Warcraft for, yeah, I mean, most of my life by this point. you know, just off and on. But now it was the only thing to do, you know, it was a mix of taking my mind off of the anxiety to, you know, what else is there to do anymore.

Now it’s just taking my mind off of life. you know, it’s, people would check in, people would ask where I was, you know, if I was coming back, but I just didn’t really know what to say, um, or how to approach that. It almost, it, it felt really embarrassing, you know, to be honest. It’s like I was this budding medical student, and now suddenly, you know, um, having these random attacks that I can’t explain or control, and I can’t even leave my house. I don’t even want to answer, you know, where I’ve been or what’s going on. So I just isolate and play more games.

Jay Ruderman: Give me a, gimme a couple sentences about what World of Warcraft is and, and how many people are playing this game.

Jason Docton: World of Warcraft is what we call an mmo, , a massive multiplayer online. It is a game where you exist in this fantasy world called Azeroth and you can be anything from night elves to humans, orks the undead. , but you pick a character and you pick a class like a rogue or a warrior or a mage and you go out into the world and fight other players.

[World of Warcraft Audio]

And, you know, the cycle of identifying with a character to gearing that character doing more advanced, more difficult things, that’s really strong social factors.

It was definitely something that fell. Feels rewarding for the time invested, especially, you know, if I was struggling at the time to invest it elsewhere. yeah, I can’t really improve myself, but could improve in game and that felt good.

Jay Ruderman: so millions of people are playing and just explain the social factor. How are people connecting through a game? Him?

Jason Docton: you know, at least for me growing up, there was something so unique about the gaming community where, uh, it, it didn’t really matter what your background was. It didn’t matter what your identity was. People didn’t judge you for those things. They really just judged you based on how good you were at the game, you know, and it feels.

much like I, I think how we often hope life would be real life would be where it’s, you’re just judged purely off the merits of your efforts. You know, if I put in a ton of time into this game, people acknowledge that, they see that it’s rewarded. Sometimes there’s just inherent parts of life that feel like penalties, feel like, you know, points of judgment that we have zero control over.

And in a game you have control over all of it. You have people from all over the world who are acting out and, and playing as almost an ideal, uh, identity and ideal self.

And. They’re being judged based off of, you know, what they choose to put into the world, what they choose to put into that virtual world. I wouldn’t even say it’s an escape as much as it’s, it just becomes a part of life.

Jay Ruderman: So what was happening to you? I mean, you’re connecting to other people, you’re. There, there’s an escapism there. There’s, there’s, um, you’re getting caught up in, in the game, spending a lot of time playing, but what’s happened to you personally during this time?

Jason Docton:  I was just the worst. everything was just declining. you know, sleep schedule didn’t really exist. Goals, ambitions didn’t really exist. you know, to think of, I have to get my life back together as you just can’t even begin. that it’s just, it’s like a messy room, you know, where, where do you even start? You just keep displacing things and not wanting to think about it as it gets worse and worse.

And because it’s getting worse and worse, you keep not wanting to think about it. And it, it’s just that vicious cycle. Yeah. Towards the end – In, in my mind, you know, about a year had gone by, it didn’t seem like I was gonna get better. It didn’t seem like things were improving. things are getting much, much worse. And you know, the second you log off the computer, that loneliness is just very apparent.

Oh, nobody’s texted me in like a few months now. Haven’t heard from anybody, talked to anyone, seen anyone outside of the games. it just made sense to not be here anymore. And, and, you know, that was really the plan. Um, that’s really where so much of, you know, rad, the nonprofit begins is, know, I think I’m just going to end things here.

at, at the time it was, it was kind of an odd time spiritually for me. cuz I had, you know, I had actually been, you know, habad for, for, you know, for some time by then. but, you know, not being able to go to shul, um, you know, the, the person that I was studying under, uh, was going through their own kind of spiritual dilemma and they just kind of started to fall apart with their, their own beliefs and, you know, the community I was in was kind of curious about where I stood.

so I kind of lost touch there as well. you know, at least with, with what was in my mind at the time, it was, I think if I do choose to leave this world, know, my goal was really to, in, in life was to, to add to it, to, to really help people. this would be subtracting from the world, taking my life would be subtracting.

So maybe, maybe if I could convince someone who, like myself was thinking of leaving this world, you know, to not leave this world to stay. Maybe that would somehow balance things out.

Jay Ruderman: What would you, what would be your advice to, to someone who’s, who’s feeling that, who’s, who’s feeling like you know, it’s life is not worth living anymore?

Jason Docton: I don’t think it’s, it’s the best idea to fight that feeling, to fight those thoughts. Um, those were thoughts and, and feelings that I was really ashamed to have. which means you don’t talk about them, right? you hide those thoughts, those feelings.

I think everybody has those thoughts and feelings at times. And so, you know, to, to not fight that, to, to lean into, okay, so this is happening, uh, makes it a lot easier to talk to others, um, to share some of that, that pain. The, the people that are in our lives, if we do have people in our lives, You know, imagine what it might be like if, if they were having those thoughts, you’d, you’d want to be there for them, just in the same way they want to be there for you when you’re having those thoughts.

So I definitely talk with people about them and, you know, really sit down and think from the perspective that this is all coming from, is it because I truly don’t want to be here and there is no other option? or are there other options? Is it, is life worth living, If things could change?

Jay Ruderman: Mm-hmm.

Jason Docton: if things could, could be, be, um, mended, you know, is is there a reality in which I would want to be here?

Jay Ruderman: Mm-hmm.

Jason Docton: And if I’m already feeling like I’m towards the end, why not try for those realities? Why not give that a chance?

Jay Ruderman: So how did you go about doing that? Because at, at some point you took some action and maybe you can tell us like what that was.

Jason Docton: Yeah. You know, I, I had kind of made this deal with myself that, okay, I’m gonna go through with this, but you know, again, I don’t wanna subtract from the world. I want to at least balance things out. So I’m gonna find somebody who is thinking of taking their life and I’m gonna try and convince ’em to stay.

And if I were to do that successfully, then okay, I can go through with it. So I, I set out to do that, uh, and I set out to do that in World of Warcraft because it was the only place that I, you know, was still connected to people, could still talk to people. And, you know, sure enough, um, you know, just constantly posting about it in chat rooms, just.

Hey, does anybody want to talk? Or if anybody’s feeling this way, you know, feel free to reach out, add me on Skype, or add me in game and, and we can talk. And, you know, people took me up on.. on that offer. and, you know, went from really spending all this time, you know, playing games to escape and, you know, trying to sleep as much as I could to, you know, okay, I’ve gotta talk with this person.

You know, let me, let me research what I should say, um, how I should approach this. How can I help them? And between talking with people and trying to get better at talking with people, you know, life really started to, to become much more focused.

Jay Ruderman: So you started to find your mission and, and at what point did you begin to form, well, first of all, let’s talk about guilds. What, what are, what are guilds within the gaming community?

Jason Docton: Sure, sure. I mean, a guild is, you know, it’s kind of a classical community. It’s a classic group. Um, large, large group. So just like you might have a Facebook group, you might have had a guild in World of Warcraft. Um, and you know, this, this guild really formed out of purpose. It was, you know, I was talking with a lot of people now, um, and then there were people who would see these messages.

I would send offering to help, offering to listen, talk with people, and they wanted to also listen and talk with people, you know, so we get the skill together where you’ve got a bunch of people listening to others, um, that are, are in need and people in need. Um, but the reality, you know, was, was very, very clear. Um, Quite quickly that, you know, listening and, and talking with people, uh, buddy was, was very, um, helpful, but, you know, people needed professional help. Uh, all of the people that were coming to you us, it was, it was kind of a, a, an additional thing to what they clearly needed, you know, therapy.

So, you know, the, the guild started to really shape itself around that. How do we, you know, find people professionals to see, um, so people start joining the guilds and the people who were once listening to others share their difficulties now, you know, would listen and, and have that shared with them and use that to find a therapist local to that person to recommend.

Jay Ruderman: So did you, did you, was this guild like, called anxiety gaming? Were you, did you form the organization within World of Warcraft?

Jason Docton: Yeah, I, I mean, you know, we, we, we called it anxiety gaming, which, you know, a lot of these big gaming organizations that were starting to form, you know, always called themselves something gaming. There was like, complexity Gaming was a, a, a is still a very popular organization. and so we went with anxiety gaming and, you know, we were finding people, therapists, we started to get the hang of it. You know, sometimes people come to us and they say, well, I really prefer to talk with a woman. Um, I need somebody of a certain spirituality. You know, I tried CBT and, and that was helpful in the past. This type of therapy wasn’t helpful. Can you find me a different type?

And, you know, we started to learn the ins and outs of what people were looking for in therapy and, and how to find them a good therapist. What really started to change things was people joining who, uh, had very clearly wanted to see a therapist, but didn’t have access to therapy, didn’t have insurance, didn’t have the ability to afford, you know, therapy without insurance.

And that that was a big dilemma. You know, we could find somebody their perfect therapist, but if they couldn’t afford to see their therapist, didn’t have insurance to see a therapist, then it didn’t really matter. and so really the guilds started to shape itself around finding people therapists, and then crowdfunding people’s therapy within the guilds.

Jay Ruderman: Do you think really, I mean, ultimately this is the job of the, of our medical establishment. This is the job of our government to, you know, provide the resources that, that will allow people to be healthy. I mean, it shouldn’t, it shouldn’t have to be a group of people, you know, within a game saying, listen, I’m gonna try to help you out. I mean, it’s admirable and, and, and you helped many, many people, but isn’t there a better way to do this?

Jason Docton: Yeah. You know, I think about that a lot. you know, to really wrap the story. Uh, you know, we we’re crowdfunding people’s mental health. Um, I’m paying out of disability checks. Other people are coming together with their disability checks and paying for people’s therapy, things that shouldn’t be done. Right. we already don’t have money. I was getting 600 or so a month in Los Angeles and paying for people’s therapy with it. That this is just, it wasn’t livable for most of us, but we came together because we, we needed to, people needed. To help. Thankfully, we get, uh, the attention of some influencers within the gaming community who, by extension of their fan base, end up getting Imagine Dragons, the band to fundraise for us.

[Imagine Dragons Audio]

you know, this is the point where we decide, I guess we’re a non-profit now cuz that that was the terms we will fundraise for you if you become a non-profit. But what you’re doing is amazing, become a non-profit already. So we, we just snap everything together. Anxiety, gaming, you know, becomes the name of the charity because it was just the name of the guild.

And a lot of this becomes forced together quickly so that we could help as many people as we could with Imagine Dragons fundraising for us. But you know, that, that just never stopped because the problem never goes away. Um, you know, and I, I’ve met so many amazing, innovative for-profits, nonprofits, foundations within the mental health space, all really focused on the future.

I’ve seen people come up with ais that can talk with people. I’ve seen people come up with fancy billing, you know, for, for therapists to make their life easier. I’ve seen a concerning amount of people get into coaching and trying to get around the idea that there, you know, are limited number of therapists, but all of this is aiming towards a reality that could be decades, centuries in the making of a better social service system.

Uh, a system that doesn’t exist. A system that. You know, the, the current, the actual system that we’re dealing with is failing. And all of these people who are struggling with their mental health, our generation, gen Z and, and every generation at this point, are all sitting here waiting for these groups to figure out how to solve the problem and then spend the next decade or or potentially century century implementing it.

And we’re saying, okay, well, everybody figures out how to do that. We can just write a check to a therapist and this person gets to get better. Because therapy is proven process. It works. When you put somebody in therapy, they heal and it changes the outcome. This 23-year-old who is debating on dropping out of college because they’re having panic attacks every day and will possibly have a future where they’re also on disability and maybe don’t survive like I did. That person is waiting for somebody to solve the social service system and all of the problems that’s their life while everybody is taking the time to figure it out. And we have an immediate resolve to that.

Jay Ruderman: At a certain point, anxiety gaming either runs out of money or it’s closed down. So, so talk about that and, and, and, and how did that happen and, and what happened after that?

Jason Docton: Sure. Um, this, this is back with, all the, the Imagine Dragons fundraising, you know, that that went really well. you know, we have thousands of people apply. We, we put together a website real quick so that we can have a form for people to apply for therapy, and we’re just, we’re finding the therapists and trying to get through thousands of people as quickly as we can.

And, eventually, we get through everybody and it’s great. And you know, we sit back and we’re like, we did the thing. We helped all the people. Uh, does anybody just want to go back to playing video games and, you know, not doing all this work? Um, you know, and, and that was, you know, and that was kind of it.

It was a, it was a slow unwind. You know, we didn’t even continue to file paperwork for the nonprofit because there was no expectation to continue it. We didn’t ask people to fundraise for us. We stoped crowdfunding, we helped all the people. And now, you know, if you wanted to be a part of the guild, great, we can play games together and talk.

But, you know, we helped all the people. Um, so we were done. Sometimes we’d get emails from people asking if we still paid for therapy and you know, we’d let them know, no, you know, we don’t do that anymore, but, feel free to come and hang out and join the guilds.

Jay Ruderman: So at that point, where are you like personally,

Jason Docton: Still struggling. Um, not in therapy myself, but, you know, we, the, the intention was never to be an organization, a nonprofit activist change. We just, you know, I tried to help one person and it just kind of turned into helping a few thousand people. we didn’t know how to fundraise. We didn’t know how to really do much beyond play games.

And there was no, there was no staff. I wasn’t paid, nobody was paid. It was just, yeah, there was no structure. It was the only way we can fundraise with Imagine Dragons is if we become a non-profit, and why not? We could help a ton of people real quick and then go back to our lives. And so we did. you know, all of that kind of changed.

Um, we, we got this email from this, uh, this 17-year-old you know, he’d reached out and he had said, you know, I, I, uh, heard about you through this, this person in the gaming community. And, you know, I live in the middle of nowhere in Georgia. you know, and I lived with my parents and my grandparents and, you know, one night my parents and my grandparents wanted to go out to dinner.

and so they, they went to go out to dinner and I stayed home to play video games cuz 17, what else do you do? and, uh, they never come back, you know, and it turns out that they had gotten in a car accident, and none of them survived. And so, the sheriff shows up and, you know, lets this person know, and, and tells them, you know, social worker is gonna come by in the morning to help you understand, you know, what, what next?

Um, nobody ever comes by. So, you know, the 17-year-olds, that, that’s just kind of it, you know, and time goes by and there’s no other family members. eventually the bank figures out, you know, no one’s paying the mortgage anymore, and, oh, there’s nobody alive to pay the mortgage. And they foreclose. And, and this kid becomes homeless.

And he writes to us from a library computer. He tells us all of this and, you know, just says, look, I don’t want to be here anymore is there anything you can do? and, and I go back to the guild and I’m like, Hey, I know this was just kind of a thing that we did, but like, we gotta help this kid.

this isn’t right. and everybody agreed like, yeah, let’s, okay, let’s, let’s do what we do. Um, and we start looking for therapists. And of course they’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s no local therapists. And we start calling therapists to see, you know, if they could do remote. And, you know, the therapists we’re talking to are like, this person lost their whole family and is homeless.

they, you know, they need inpatient, they need to go someplace, you know, with much more, direct care and you start looking for inpatient care. And closest thing we find is one in Atlanta, like two hours away. Um, and had enough, you know, if you’ve ever looked for inpatient care without insurance, no. I mean, no, it was like buying a car with cash.

It, it’s more expensive to go to inpatient than it’s to buy a car. a lot of these places wanted 10 grand a month. and we found one place that was, that was, know, willing to work with us. But you know, the second they asked if he had insurance, we’re like, he’s 17 and he has no family, doesn’t have, there’s no insurance.

Jay Ruderman: Mm-hmm.

Jason Docton: They were willing to do a thousand a month for the first few months if we could raise it. And that was the best. Best we could find. So, you know, we, we have this, um, cell phone of a friend of theirs that, you know, we used to communicate back and forth and, you know, this kid will stay at his friend’s house every, you know, other weekend or so, and, you know, we’ll talk over the phone and, you know, we let him know, you know, we found a place we need to fundraise, get you there.

And it became very clear, very quickly how hard it is to raise money. I mean, we couldn’t raise anything, but we were posting on Facebook. We were, we were pitching in dollars, uh, at the time and we were just not getting close. you know, we were checking in, but by week three of trying to find this money, I think we managed to raise about $800.

and we get a call from, from the friend, you know, this teenager that we’re trying to help. You know, letting us know that they took their life.

Jay Ruderman: That’s incredibly sad. And I’m sorry for your loss and the loss of everyone involved. but let me ask you, I mean, you, you had with anxiety gaming success at raising. Significant money. Why was it so difficult this second time around after, you know, essentially anxiety gaming was closed down. Why couldn’t you go back to Imagine Dragons or some, you know, other funders and say, Hey, listen, we have an emergency situation. We need, we need some more money to help this kid out.

Jason Docton: We tried, you know, momentum. Momentum is a, is a hell of a thing, and once you lose it sometimes thats it. imagine Dragons, you know, we never heard from them again. We couldn’t get ahold of them. It was this major band, you know, they had their own foundation as well that they had just started. Most of us were broke, you know, far, far, far broke, had gone into debt in the past to try and crowdfund and fundraise and, you know, tapped friends and family members so many times.

It was just, that was it. And now it wasn’t you know, cool thing that was happening in the gaming community that had that momentum now it was just, it was a thing that happened in the past and people move on.

Jay Ruderman: what happened after that? I mean, like, what, what was the result of, of that very traumatic experience for you and, and your community?

Jason Docton: That was it. you know, I’d set out to help one person. and I helped thousands of people. maybe now it was time that the one person I couldn’t help what, what was the, the, the sign that it was time to go. you know, I remember planning out that last day and thinking to myself just how frustrated I was initially with myself, you know, why couldn’t we raise the money and why couldn’t I do better?

Um, then frustrated with, you know, the, the people who said no, didn’t respond to any of our requests for funds, didn’t, didn’t care to help. and then I just was mad at the system. It was like, this is a 17 year old who did nothing, nothing wrong. Like, I could find so many reasons why I deserved anxiety deserved depression. but this was, this was a kid and this was an unfortunate series of events that happened in their life that led to this. And at no point did the people who were supposed to intervene intervene. I just couldn’t stand for that. I, I didn’t, I didn’t want to be in the world anymore, but I didn’t wanna leave a world that was like this. It, it had to change. You know? I went back to what was left of our guild. A lot of people left after this person passed away. just not wanting to think about it anymore,

you know? And I had said like, look, this never happens again. It can’t, we have to figure out how to fundraise. We have to figure out how to do this. There’s no, there’s no other way.

Jay Ruderman: So you guys are acting while, while the system is broken and not really, you know, figured out by the government or the medical community, you guys are, are jumping into action. How are you guys able to do this? I mean, you’re, you’re, you’re amateurs, you’re, you’re not professional medical, um, mental health professionals. How are you able to take someone in Pakistan or Los Angeles or New York or wherever they are in the world and find the right therapist for them? I mean, you, you’re, you’re not like tapped into a network. How does it, how does it happen?

Jason Docton: Well, I mean, so there’s a few parts of this. You know, at first we weren’t professionals. Now, you know, we have about 17 full-time staff members. And, you know, they’re, they’re clinical social workers. you know, they have master’s degrees. This is what they do. they’re finding therapists based off of their wealth of knowledge and their experience.

And so the, the program, you know, when, when you enter this program and you’re looking to find a therapist and have this therapist paid for, you’re working with a clinical social worker now. So you, you do have a professional with you along the process. finding a therapist in different countries, you know, initially takes some cultural, uh, you know, uh, adapting and, and you know, cultural competency that we build up.

But it, it’s not too hard to. Say to a therapist, here is a check. You know, see this person . Um, that, that tends to go pretty, pretty well, you know, I think, you know, again, because we cut out so much of the, the bureaucracy when it comes to healthcare and, and mental healthcare, uh, it’s actually really, really easy what we do.

I don’t think it’s, it’s too challenging. However, you know, because of the, the team being so focused and so professional and, and having, you know, degrees and, and, and, and being very well respected individually, we’re able to really pioneer a lot of science. You know, we, we work pretty closely with UCLA these days to pioneer the science of this client therapist relationship.

What. That relationship’s successful? How do you find the right therapist? It’s, it’s great that there are for-profits that are trying to use an AI to, to do this or, you know, have turned it into Tinder or, you know, where you’re just swiping through therapists. But, you know, right now it just seems to make the most sense for us to hand match people and, you know, a mix of the science that we’re pioneering and sometimes gut feeling, to go through and find somebody their perfect therapist.

And, and it’s quite a process on our end. But, you know, for the person who might be struggling to get out of bed each day, who’s really struggling to even take care of themself, to go through and call dozens of therapists to interview those therapists and figure out if they’re the right person. That’s a.

A lot to expect, for us, for them to just talk with us once and for us to go out and use our understanding, our knowledge to go out and find somebody on their behalf makes things significantly easier. you know, nobody here, you know, we have a lot of clinical social workers now. Our business team, nobody has a business background. Nobody has that kind of experience. We’ve, we’ve been learning, we’ve been very aggressively growing and, and figuring everything out along the way.

You know, 2019, we’re a team of two people. 2000, you know, 22. We’re wrapping up now. We’re a team of almost 20 people. We are very young people who are living through this epidemic, this mental health epidemic. And, you know, we, we’ve. for people to send help. We’ve waited for the next great idea, social revolution change.

We’ve waited for people to fix the system. We’ve been told there are people lobbying for it, that there are new innovations and there’s just so many more people suffering while all of that is getting figured out. So we are here just making it as simple as possible. Here’s a therapist, here’s the money. That’s, that’s, that’s all there really needs to be.

Jay Ruderman: So when do you form red? What does RAD stand for?

Jason Docton: Yeah. Yeah. We formed rad, you know, probably after a year or so, you know, of re returning to this after, after the 17 year old, that’s name is Ben, uh, passed away. you know, and initially, you know, we had teamed up with this person who’d worked in the music industry who was connecting us to Demi Lovato and, and a couple of other people.

And we were gonna do an event called Rock Against Depression, rad Rock Against Depression. And, you know, it, it didn’t work out. but we loved the acronym. We thought it was a really great positive thing. And so we kind of forced the name rise above the disorder into it. and it’s, it’s been that way ever since.

You know, our website is, you are rad. Our emails are all, you are rad. Uh, we get to write rad all over stuff. And, you know, I think radical works in so many different ways, you know, using that term. And we’ve just kind of played with that ever since.

Jason Docton: well, today we’ve, you know, we, we have raised almost $15 million, you know, not a, not a huge sum of money. You know, when you remove a lot of the, the red tape, the bureaucracy that’s involved in healthcare, when you take out the middleman services and things like that, it’s relatively cheap. Uh, you know, f for us, when we work with a therapist, . You know, we’ll usually try and work on a, on a discounted rate, but it’s guaranteed sessions.

The person is going to go. we know because they’re highly motivated. They wouldn’t be in the program if they weren’t. it, it ends up costing us very little, you know, just a few thousand, sometimes just a thousand to get somebody through six months of therapy. And when we look at it on a universal level, right, we do this in 135 countries now, in a lot of places it’s even cheaper.

You know, I can put somebody through therapy, in, you know, in Pakistan.

Jay Ruderman: Mm-hmm.

Jason Docton: you know, for, for 10 years, for a thousand dollars. I mean, there’s, there’s just so, so much impact that we’re able to have with such a small amount of money. Um, but the reality is that is a life-changing amount of money to somebody at the most critical time in their life.

Jay Ruderman: and how were you able to raise the 15 million?

Jason Docton: Gaming. you know, th this is a really unique time in gaming. You know, as we start to really grow, you start to see the rise of on online influencers. You had big YouTubers for long time, for decades, but now they were making seven, some even, you know, getting into eight figures these days. the same thing was starting to happen within the gaming community, not just on YouTube, but through live streaming. You know, some of these people are making, you know, 10 to 20, 30 million a month playing video games for an audience. They are cultural icons. They’re shown up in movies and music videos. And, you know, I’ve seen as the music industry and, you know, casino is now trying to get into the gaming world. And the gaming world is, is mainstream culture. And we were on the wave of that as it was going. Myself and so many of these other people that were involved, grew up around some of these creators, played games with a lot of these creators. And you know, we watched as friends got into content creation and online influence, you know, and, you know, became, you know, these modern day celebrities. And being able to team up with them to fundraise has made a huge difference. Um, you know, some of the big gaming companies also have joined and, and have been funding us and helping us, but, you know, the, the gaming part, you know, is still a huge part of our identity. But there’s just so much now that happens outside of gaming. You know, we, there, there have been times where we have closed applications. They, they’re currently closed now, you know, to give our social workers just a rest for the, the winter holidays. But you know, we’ll close down and, and people from Crisis Text Line will, email us and say, Hey, when are you, when are you opening back up? We send so many people to you, you know, and they’re telling us you’re close. You will get calls from NAMI and, and so many other nonprofits who now depend on us, we’ve become a core service. I think, you know, these days we can see upwards of 400 applications for our services in a week. That’s more than nonprofits, you know, that are bringing in, you know, a hundred plus million a year. And we just have 15 million in our 10 year lifespan. So we’re, we’re still figuring everything out.

Jay Ruderman: is the gaming industry, pitching in and, and, and providing the resources that you need to, to help people that are, uh, that are, you know, the lifeblood of their industry.

Jason Docton: Not as much as you’d hope. Um, you know, our, our big ones are electronic arts, um, which makes, you know, Madden, um, previously made FIFA was.

Jay Ruderman: Mm-hmm.

Jason Docton: you know, they have Apex Legends and some really popular, amazing games. Um, you know, EA has been doing this very subtly, you know, supporting us. There’s, there’s not a lot of promotion of it, but there’s, you know, a website that talks about this.

Our, our relationship, uh, Ja X, the people who make ruin scape have been our biggest supporter. They ask literally nothing from us and fundraise for us all the time. it’s just been an incredible, incredibly supportive relationship. But, you know, we don’t have support, you know, from even the games that are our origin.

You know, I think some of the gaming industry is still very worried, um, you know, about supporting nonprofits, especially ones that they see that are smaller. Um, some have even come back to us concerned about supporting mental health because there is that still that panic of mental health and gaming, Is there a relationship there? You know, we don’t want to, we don’t want to. Say that we care about mental health and then have people then say, okay, well then why do games cause these issues and get dragged into that argument. Um, and so there’s really not as much support as I think there really could be.

Um, you know, at least at the level that we are working with, the amount of people that we’re seeing and helping, I mean, we, we need significantly more funding. And we could certainly get that from the gaming community, from the industry side if the gaming industry showed us support. but that’s just not happened as much.

Jay Ruderman: Jason, I want to ask you, you, you, um, have a quote on your website, um, that says, therapy is one of the greatest acts of protests we can engage in. And I wanted to ask you as we sort of, you know, close out the interview, um, how are you doing? I mean, I mean, you’ve, you’ve dedicated your life to helping other people. You came through a really difficult time yourself. How are you doing these days?

Jason Docton: Good. You know? better, better. I got help eventually and, I still remember some of those days. Never leaving home. And it, it’s, uh, kind of a tough reality that the pandemic would follow. So soon after I started to be able to travel. But I’ve been everywhere. I went to Spain for a convention on games to talk about the work we do.

I’ve, I’ve been to so many different countries. Jag X has flown me out to, to Cambridge and, and England to learn how to be a better leader. I’ve been able to travel quite a bit and build relationships and, and meet, even meet some of the people that I’ve helped over the years. And, you know, every day I wake up and I, I choose to do this.

I, I, I’m so excited to do this. it’s not, it doesn’t feel like a way to justify leaving the world. Instead, it feels like this, this is my life. This is. What I love doing, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. You know, I wake up with this level of excitement and anger, that I think fuels everything. And, you know, to some degree, I hold on to some of the depression and some of the anxiety to fuel me.

So I never forget what that’s like, what it’s like to, to feel so alone, to feel so lost, so disconnected. I don’t wanna forget it. I, I need to remember what that’s like so that I can be the most effective, at my work.

Jay Ruderman: Well, I wish you, um, continued good health, um, good mental health and, and I wish your organization will go from success to success. It’s obviously vital, in our world that we live today. Um, maybe you can tell the audience, uh, if they want to contribute to rad, um, how do they go about doing that?

Jason Docton: You know, supporting RAD is, is, you know, a couple of different steps. It’s, it’s, if you want to donate, if you can’t afford to donate it’s rad.org/donate, that money goes directly to covering therapy sessions. That is, you know, a teenager just like Ben, who’s always wanted to see a therapist and their family’s just not been able to afford it, or maybe they are in a position like Ben, where they don’t have their family there to, be able to help them with that anymore. you can help cover those costs and make that possible. Uh, but we’re also, you know, actively, if you’re a professional, if you have skills that you’re looking to lend, we’re always looking for volunteers.

You know, on the website youarerad.org/volunteer. We’re looking for mentors, people who know business, who know how to build these connections, maintain these relationships. Again, you, you have a bunch of young people in their twenties. I think I’m the oldest person in the organization and I’m 33. and all of us are still trying to learn how to build this nonprofit into what it needs to be.

The, the demand is there, the demand is, is. is way, way, way beyond what we can fulfill. Um, but you know, anybody, you can help us learn how to get there, it would be greatly appreciated.

Jay Ruderman: Jason Din, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure to have you as my guest on all about change and, uh, look forward to hearing great things from your work, uh, and from you in the future. So thank you so much.

Jason Docton: Oh, thanks for having me. It’s been an honor Jay.

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