Applying Product Management Skills to Address Emotional and Behavioral Health Needs

man in hood with buff around drawn behind him.

One in four people in the world will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives, and that number seems to be increasing—more than 16 million U.S. adults have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has heard from its spiritual leaders and ministers around the world that they frequently are asked to help people with emotional challenges. And, in many cases, local congregations have created their own wellness content to address local needs. The Church knew it needed to come up with a solution for this problem that its market was experiencing. But the solution wasn’t developed overnight.

Like any other successful product, the solution came from listening to people’s problems and needs. Qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (survey) data was gathered and analyzed to identify which issues to address. The Church also identified the best way to address these issues sensitively and practically.

The qualitative research included unbiased, open-ended questions like, “what prevents you from succeeding?”, “Who do you turn to for help?” and “Which resources are the most/least helpful to you?” The answers to these questions then were validated with survey results gathered over several years. The result: a nine-day emotional resilience course, which includes a video component.

Scheduled to launch in 2020, the new course is part of a larger course offering the Church has developed. Other courses have helped people in 130 countries who speak 36 different languages to improve their own situations by learning to start or grow a business, find better employment or manage their finances.

In the new course, people will learn to handle stressful situations and adapt to life changes with optimism and perspective. It even guides inexperienced group facilitators to help participants develop and apply practical skills and spiritual habits that contribute to greater emotional intelligence.

Mike Davis, the product manager of the emotional resilience course (and co-author of this blog article) carefully identified patterns and themes. Rather than jumping to his own conclusions or making decisions based solely on stakeholder requests, Mike dug into the research to understand how pervasive and representative certain issues are (e.g., taking care of our bodies, coping with anxiety, depression and anger, suicide, communicating clearly, finding joy).

Pragmatic Institute’s principle of considering your core competency when making a buy, build or partner decision holds true, particularly with this product. The Church’s core competency is creating spiritual experiences that connect people to Jesus Christ. And the mental health industry has some generally accepted practices that contribute to overall wellness and self-care. So, instead of creating the solution independently, Mike recognized the opportunity to partner with LDS Family Services. This nonprofit organization offers counseling and psychotherapy services based on Christian values to promote content from other reputable sources like the American Psychiatric Association,, and others.

Reaching across organizational boundaries to find others with complementary expertise has accelerated the Church’s ability to meet audience needs. For example, a third-quarter 2019 pilot course will be evaluated using a mental health industry measure to evaluate the course’s effect against participant needs. Based on those pilot outcomes, a global rollout will happen in 2020, along with ongoing research to measure participant progress and product effectiveness after the pilot completes.

Addressing global emotional and behavioral health needs has an enormous effect on people’s lives—not to mention on the strategic fit for the Church. For people to proactively learn and practice newfound self-care skills with a spiritual perspective strengthens and enables them to be more self-sufficient as well as help friends or family do the same. The problems are pervasive, costly and urgent—making this nine-week course a remarkable opportunity to help everyone find hope for a better day.

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