…I think it’s as simple as: believing in the infinite capacity for people to change, banding together around the idea that all people are deserving of care, and exercising your political freedoms to demand the change necessary to make healthcare a right.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Docton. At his lowest point, Jason Docton, had reached 97 pounds and hadn’t left his apartment for 48 months. After years of hard work and a troubled childhood, he succumbed to depression, anxiety and the agoraphobia which made it impossible for him to leave his apartment, resulting in him dropping out of his studies. It was through gaming that a fellow player asked Jason for his advice on how to deal with depression. Then another reached out, wanting to talk about the anxiety they were facing. Under the guise of avatars, real people were talking candidly about the mental health issues that confronted them. Though plagued with thoughts of suicide, Jason told himself,“I should help people before I go through with this.”It turned out, lots of fellow gamers needed help. People would contact him and say “Well let’s talk more about it tomorrow,” and so he’d have to get up and talk with them the next day. Now there was a reason for Jason to get up and do something — to help others.
Helping others ultimately led Jason on a search to find others to pay for the treatment they needed. Once he started getting a $560 disability check each month, Jason began paying for therapy sessions for the low-income gamers he was in contact with, people who would have gone untreated without the financial help. Jason then started calling therapists directly, to set up payment arrangements with them and ask them to consider going lower on the sliding-scale so that his funds could stretch further and help even more gamers he was connecting with online.
As a result of Jason’s dedication and efforts to help fellow gamers, Anxiety Gaming was founded as a 501(c)(3) Mental Health Non-Profit, committed to addressing the two biggest issues facing mental health care: access and affordability. The universal mental health care system Jason and his team created based on their experiences has supported over 36,000 people getting the help they deserve.
In 2018, Jason re-branded the organization to Rise Above the Disorder to expand his mission of providing a universal mental health care system to people within and outside of the gaming community.
Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
I suppose I’m your typical “troubled youth.” My mother raised me on her own, working multiple jobs, trying to go back to school, and making every effort to keep our heads above water. I’d walk a few miles to and from elementary school every day in these hand-me-down uniforms the school provided to families in need, spend lunches alone and return to an empty home. We did the best we could, but what we did we did alone, and that took a huge toll on my childhood.
By the end of middle-school and throughout high school, I had turned to drugs for comfort and gangs for family. I was in and out of school quite frequently, often finding myself expelled for fighting, anger issues and general defiance. It took a long time for my life to settle, which I credit greatly to Chabad; though, my mother continued to struggle. Living a life filled with so much conflict, anger, and isolation gave me a strong insight into what mental health issues were and where they came from. My mother succumbing to her own issues reminded me of the grave nature of unattended pain.
Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start your nonprofit?
Imagine Dragons asked me to start this nonprofit.
Years prior, I was mentally and emotionally stuck in my mind to the point of being unable to leave home. Simply stepping outside triggered thoughts of death, fears that something terrible would happen or an overwhelming shortness of breath that was beyond my control. Agoraphobia, the fear of leaving a safe place, had slowly isolated me from my profession, my studies and my friends to the point where there wasn’t much left.
There was a time during all of this anxiety that I set the intention to end my life, but only if I could somehow prevent someone else from taking their own. I saw it as a balance. So, I set off to find someone to help in the only world I had access to: gaming. On that journey, my otherwise isolating life became filled with meaning, purpose, and an understanding that my goal wasn’t to justify taking my life, but helping those who sought to take their own.
Several years later, I was still battling my own issues, but helping others navigate theirs. As much as I and so many others wanted to directly support those in need, we inevitably found ourselves helping them find and connect with local mental health professionals. Of course, that ultimately became an issue because mental health care is incredibly expensive and hard to access. We had solved the access side as mediums to service. We then solved the affordability side by donating our disability checks and any other funds we could find to supplement the mental health care for those who came across our little group. Our effort grew rapidly and was noticed by this big content creator, Trick2G, and the band Imagine Dragons.
Their offer to help us go grow beyond our own means was contingent on becoming a nonprofit, to which we gladly accepted.
Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?
Rise Above the Disorder (RAD) helps address the two greatest barriers to mental health care: access and affordability. To fulfill our mission and vision, our team sustains a universal mental health care system open to all those in need. The dream of a world where all those in need of care and support have free access isn’t an original one, but certainly something that’s dramatically more effective than what exists.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
More people than I can appropriately thank. Those who I hurt during the troubled times in my life are in my thoughts daily and greatly influence my commitment to be better. So much of my life was spent fighting for my own needs and taking advantage of whatever kindness I was shown.
Perhaps most importantly, my mother. It wasn’t until her passing that I understood her absence to be a powerful display of love. She was someone who needed no thanks, nor acknowledgement to make every effort to stabilize our chaotic life.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I think it’s as simple as: believing in the infinite capacity for people to change, banding together around the idea that all people are deserving of care, and exercising your political freedoms to demand the change necessary to make healthcare a right.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The next step for RAD is to evolve our humble team and offices into a large scale hospital. At present, we provide two programs. The first helps those with insurance or an ability to pay to find the best possible professionals and give them a way to navigate going forward. Our second, and core program, is to do the same work but instead cover the cost entirely on a patient’s behalf. It’s this program we’ve become known for and this program which commands all of our resources. The hospital is an expansion of this effort.
Although we’ve been offered space on the West and East Coast, we remain undecided. What we know for sure is that this location will provide entirely free mental health care to all those who walk through our doors, based on our unique model that costs 1/10th the average annual treatment. This beacon for how we’d like mental health care to look like in this country is a necessary step forward.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is the ability to dream, communicate these dreams, and ultimately work with others to turn them into something tangible before the dream fades.
Although many great leaders are, or at least appear to be, quite mechanical in nature, they have a dream in mind, share it with others and seek to make it come to life.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non profit”. Please share a story or example for each.
- The way you feel about your cause is based on hundreds of hours of thought; the way others feel about your cause is based on the few seconds you have to share. I like to keep this in mind both to the point of not taking personal how others feel about my cause, but also to the point of understanding the importance of how I communicate my work.
- One of your first stumbling blocks will be learning how to make the most out of every interaction and situation, but the greater challenge will be knowing how to filter or delegate. As noble as it is to answer each and every question, talk to all those who reach out, and jump on every opportunity that comes to you, this sort of response will force you to discover the limits of your emotional and mental bandwidth.
- Being a nonprofit means you have two value propositions to understand. The first, which is likely clear, is that what your nonprofit does provides value for those in need. The second is the value you provide to those who support your effort.
- Do what you know, learn what you don’t, and hire what you can’t. To some extent, every founder should be well-rounded and find the means to do everything they possibly can. Still, you’ll see how every ounce of effort you put in as an amateur will ultimately need to be replaced by an expert.
- Wars aren’t won with only one type of troop, but many. When you get to the point of hiring, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only recruiting people like yourself. Build an understanding of those who see what you see from a different perspective and assess whether the way they approach things makes you uncomfortable because it’s incorrect or because it comes from a perspective you don’t have.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’d like to think so, but the two are one and the same for me. Bringing goodness to the world is my success.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers.
As someone who has spent a great deal of their life trying to change, this is a fundamental point I keep in my mind. People tend to see themselves in light of who they want to be, of which I’m guilty. It’s not until I see, understand, and accept who I am that it becomes possible to be the person I want to be.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d love to meet with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders. Alexandria, to me, is the leader of our generation and embodies what an unwavering commitment to good looks like when paired with the flexibility and mindfulness of how others in society define “good.” Bernie appears to stand the test of time as a symbol for justice, human rights and the personal sacrifice required to move society forward.
How can our readers follow you online?