When J Balvin struggled to make music amid his mental health struggles, he made the difficult decision to seek help. Now he uses what he has learned to help others.
The Colombian singer – born José Álvaro Osorio Balvín – is one of the best-selling Latin music artists of this generation, known for breaking barriers through sound, fashion and art. After speaking publicly about his personal struggles with anxiety and depression, he launches OYE, a bilingual wellness app. The goal? To empower everyone in the Latinx community — and other cultures — struggling with mental health by providing a space to channel their emotions into creativity.
“In my own journey, I’ve had a hard time finding my creativity while dealing with personal mental health issues,” J Balvin, known as the app’s chief dream officer, shared in a statement to TODAY. “However, after understanding and unlocking the powers of creative wellbeing and using my own creative vision to drive real solutions for myself, I was able to both feel better about myself and express myself in new ways I never thought possible. “
His statement continued, “That’s why I created OYE – to bring the global community a deeper understanding of the healing powers of these creative wellness practices – for both Spanish and English speaking audiences worldwide.”
The app has been in development for about a year, OYE co-founders Mario Chamorro and Patrick Dowd told TODAY via Zoom. They officially started developing the app alongside Balvin in late 2021. The app’s name — which translates to “listen” — was chosen after Chamorro and Dowd discussed how they could increase people’s meaningful listening.
From the start, the team wanted to create a platform that could help people across America feel better. To accomplish this mission, they knew their app needed to be fully bilingual.
“We had our entire design and build process in both languages,” Dowd said. “It’s just part of our DNA. And I think we’re also very inspired by our co-founder and chief dream officer, José, who has sung in Spanish throughout his career, even though he faced a lot of pressure as a world star. He has always seemed true to his origins and believes it is very important to promote Spanish as a world language.”
According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, mental health problems are increasing among people of Hispanic, Hispanic, or Hispanic descent between the ages of 12 and 49. Mental Health America notes that challenges within these communities are only compounded by a shortage of bilingual or Spanish-speaking mental health professionals, often coupled with poor communication from healthcare providers.
However, Chamorro and Dowd stressed that OYE is for everyone, not just Spanish speakers, as the app can be easily toggled between language settings.
OYE’s features include an emotional check-in tool with around 100 feelings to choose from – such as “disinterested” to “lonely”, “anxious” or “peaceful” – which then provides the user with content relevant to their current emotional state are tailored .
There are also creative wellness videos and exercises from five to 30 minutes, a personal goal setting tool, and downloadable generative art to track personal growth and share with friends. There are also mindful notifications that encourage persistence, self-love, and accountability.
Mexican-born Head of Wellness Mari Serra helped build an “eclectic, inclusive group of wellness guides,” Dowd shared, which includes shamans, healers, dancers, meditation experts, and yogis from different parts of Latin America. Balvin’s own therapist, Latin American psychologist Carlos López, is also on the Wellness Council.
As part of the app, members are also invited to become “OYE creators” themselves and are encouraged to share how they are managing and managing their own mental health.
“We believe that every artist is a healer and every healer is an artist and we believe everyone person is an artist,” said Chamorro. “We’re just bringing together this community of people expressing how they manage their emotions to unleash their creative selves and shape their future.”
Above all, OYE aims to help the world feel better by providing easy access to a holistic range of practices from Latin America. On a global scale, Dowd said, they want to “transform emotional well-being from something seen as a private burden into something seen as a powerful resource in creating the life you want to live.”
Chamorro added that a resource that has content curated by mental health professionals and can be easily filled out in English or Spanish “is something really powerful.”
OYE can now be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play. The company will offer a one-month free trial in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month and World Mental Health Day on October 10, followed by subscription options starting at $4.99/month.
While Hispanic Heritage Month, TODAY shares the history, pain, joy and pride of the community. We highlight Hispanic leaders and emerging voices. TODAY will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout September and October. More information can be found here.