Three years ago, James and Caitie Morgan’s lives were turned upside-down when their 1-year-old son, James, died.
To this day, the Morgans don’t know what happened to the child whose nickname was “little buddy.”
“He was in his crib the night before his first birthday,” James Morgan recalls. “The next morning … He had just passed away in the middle of the night.”
The grief was overwhelming, but the couple found a small amount of solace in another couple — friends of another friend — who had lost their son, too.
“Just having that accountability partner to reach out to us and ask us how we were doing was so helpful,” says Morgan, who lives with his wife and two children in Mountain Brook, outside of Birmingham. “Being able to text them, call them, grab coffee, talk about difficult things. … We thought, how in the world would we be able to make that connection if we didn’t live in Birmingham? If we lived out west, how would that have worked?”
There was no app for that, until Morgan, who works in technology at O’Neal Steel, created one.
Buddys’s App, a name inspired by little James’ nickname, launched in mid-September, and it now has about 500 users from 30 different states. The app is free, and it’s meant to provide a support system for people facing difficult times in their lives, whether that’s grief, anxiety, depression or something else.
“We ask people some onboarding questions and gather some information,” Morgan says. “We use our algorithm to suggest connections on Buddys who are like you. You can read their stories, their testimonies, see how compatible you are.”
It sounds a bit like a dating app, but that’s not what Buddys is. On Buddys, users can share their experiences in a public forum, join a small group made up of people dealing with similar issues or text members one-on-one, all in an effort to connect those struggling with other people “who understand how you feel,” Morgan says.
“It’s all safe, secure and private,” he says. “We have mechanisms in place to report people if anyone is making you feel uncomfortable.”
Right now, Buddys is in a building phase, and though it’s free for users, Morgan is looking at ways to possibly monetize the venture.
“We are collecting data from our users, which they know upfront, to further help within the mental health and medical communities by sharing data to create collective knowledge about what people are going through, and we are looking at a way to monetize that data,” he says. “Our data will be submitted without any personally identifiable information about a user. We’re spending money and continuing to develop the software to further help as many people along their life journeys.”
Morgan is quick to point out that Buddys is not a medical app. Though lists of health care resources are available via the app, the platform itself is meant to be a social media app connecting people going through similar trying times.
“I get on it every day, and it has helped in a lot of different ways as we continue to grieve and go through our process,” he says. “It’s comforting to know that we’re building this community for people who are seeking that same kind of help. … It’s better to go through life together, instead of just by yourself.”
And the Morgans see Buddys as a way to help people achieve that togetherness, while honoring the memory of their son.
“We want to use our story and testimony to help others,” Morgan says.