When J Balvin found himself struggling to compose music amid his struggles with mental health, he made the difficult decision to seek help. Now, he uses what he’s learned to help others.
Colombian singer-born Jose Alvaro Osorio Balvin is one of the best-selling Latin music artists of this generation, known for breaking barriers through sound, fashion and art. After opening up publicly about his personal struggles with anxiety and depression, he launched OYE, a bilingual health app. Target? To empower anyone in the Latinx community – and other cultures – who struggle with mental health by providing a space to help channel their emotions into creativity.
“On my own journey, I’ve found it difficult to find my creativity while dealing with personal mental health struggles,” J Balvin, known as the app’s Chief Dream Officer, shared a statement to TODAY. “However, after understanding and tapping into the powers of creative wellness and using my creative vision to offer real solutions for myself, I was able to feel better and express myself in new ways that I didn’t know were possible.”
His statement continued, “This is why I created OYE – to bring a deeper understanding of the healing powers of these creative wellness practices to the global community – for both Spanish and English speakers around the world.”
The app has been in the works for about a year, OYE co-founders Mario Chamorro and Patrick Dodd told TODAY via Zoom. They officially started building the app along with Balvin in late 2021. The app’s name — which translates to “listen” — was chosen after Chamorro and Dowd discussed how they could increase the amount of meaningful listening for people.
From the start, the team wanted to create a platform that could help people feel better across the Americas. To achieve this mission, they knew that their application had to be fully bilingual.
“We had a full design and creation process in both languages,” Dodd said. “It’s just part of our DNA. And I think we’re also very inspired by our co-founder and chief dreamer Jose, who has sung in Spanish throughout his career, even as he was under great pressure to become a global superstar. He always seemed to be true to where he was from. And he feels that it is very important to defend Spanish as a global language.”
According to the SAMHSA National Survey on Substance Use and Health, mental health issues are on the rise for Hispanic, Hispanic, or Hispanic people between the ages of 12-49. The American Mental Health Organization notes that challenges within these communities are only exacerbated by a shortage of bilingual or Spanish-speaking mental health professionals, often combined with poor communication from health care providers.
However, Chamorro and Dowd emphasized that OYE is for everyone, not just Spanish speakers, as the app can easily be toggled between language preferences.
Among OYE’s features is an emotional check-in tool with about 100 feelings to choose from – such as “not interested” to “lonely”, “worried” or “peaceful” – which will then provide the user with content tailored to the person’s current emotional state.
There are also five to 30 minute creative health exercise videos, a personal goal setting tool, and downloadable generative art that tracks personal growth and can be shared with friends. There are also conscious notices that will encourage perseverance, self-love, and accountability.
From Mexico, Head of Wellness Marie Serra helped build an “eclectic and holistic group of health educators,” Dodd shared, which includes shamans, healers, dancers, meditation experts, and yogis, among others, from different parts of Latin America. Vin’s psychotherapist, Carlos Lopez, is also a member of the Health Board.
As part of the application, members are also invited to become “OYE Creators” themselves and are encouraged to share how they approach and manage their mental health.
“We believe that every artist is a healer, and every healer is an artist, and we believe in every person Human Chamorro said. “We’re just bringing together this community of people who express how they manage their emotions to unleash their creative selves and shape their future.”
Above all, the purpose of OYE is to help the world feel better by providing easy access to a comprehensive suite of practices from Latin America. Globally, Dodd said, they “want to shift emotional wellness from something seen as a private burden to something seen as a powerful resource for creating the life you want to live.”
Having a resource that can curate content from mental health experts and complete it in either English or Spanish in an easy-to-follow way, Chamorro added, “is a really powerful thing.”
OYE is now available for download via the Apple App Store and Google Play. The company will offer a month-long free trial in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month and World Mental Health Day on October 10, followed by subscription options starting at $4.99 a month.
during Spanish Heritage MonthToday, TODAY shares the community’s history, pain, joy, and pride. We highlight Hispanic pioneers and emerging voices. TODAY will be publishing personal articles, stories, videos, and specials throughout September and October. For more, head here.
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