Youturn Interview

Written by Breakroom Team

On January 6, 2022

About the Founder 

Shay is the Founder and CEO of YouTurn and has spent the past 30 years working with technology startups. YouTurn is Shay’s fifth startup, which prompted 3 years ago from his own personal experience with trauma and addiction. After facing unfathomable difficulties and battling the cycle of relapse and recovery, Shay ultimately got extended treatment for his personal trauma of sexual assault. However, following treatment, Shay came to discover that his own family was in a worse state of mind than he was.  

He witnessed an abundance of fear, rage, shame, remorse, and regret; all these emotions suppressed, and each family member and individual had their own perspective on what was happening. He saw the depression of his own 16-year-old daughter, scared, with no outlet for her emotions and no place to learn. The weight of this brought light to the prevalence of dysfunction within families that struggle with addiction. This is when Shay established YouTurn.  

YouTurn’s foundation comprises the collective experiences of those who have struggled with overcoming addiction, including the personal recoveries of its co-founders Elizabeth McKissick and Rich Jones. The goal of YouTurn is to create an enormous amount of hope and shared experience for others to overcome the same problems and conflicts faced by its founders and their families. 

What Is YouTurn and How Does It Work? 

YouTurn is the largest platform for therapist-led videos on substance abuse. Its confidential platform organizes and disseminates information on addiction to companies and their employees in a private and secure manner.  

YouTurn allows individuals to understand substance abuse, especially in relation to their own families and educates individuals who have an addict in the family. Individuals can begin learning about addiction from the comfort of their own home, car, or other location of their choice. They can immediately begin their education by watching on their device. 

As an example, suppose Frank, a 45-year-old employee with no history of substance abuse, has a 17-year-old daughter who struggles with addiction. As a result, her substance usage consumes her life, rendering Frank an unproductive employee, creating a cascade of turmoil all due to a lack of the right resources. YouTurn can help both Frank and his daughter confidentially. That is the primary distinction between YouTurn and other services. 

Aside from the plethora of information provided on the platform, individuals also have the option to reach out to a peer or family recovery coach for help in navigating any extra resources, clinical or natural, that may be available. 

What Is the Vision, Mission, and Values of YouTurn? 

YouTurn’s mission is to educate families about substance abuse. We wish to educate and train families about substance abuse so they can better support their loved ones in need; keeping themselves well, setting appropriate boundaries, and taking care of themselves while learning to support a loved one through their lifetime addiction recovery path. 

YouTurn attempts to do is make it genuine and appropriate to talk about addiction. We want those impacted by addiction or suffering with substance abuse to obtain the help they need and know they are not alone. 

How Is YouTurn Impacting Its Partnerships? 

The most significant impact YouTurn has had in the last year has been our work with the South Carolina Veterans Administration, which uses our program to assist veterans who have struggled with substance abuse. Battle exhausted many of the veterans we serve. They have already sought traditional drug and alcohol treatment through the VA or Veterans Services and continue to struggle.  

Sixteen percent of the veterans with whom we work have a high to moderate risk of suicide. Thus, one in five of the individuals with whom we work has tried suicide. They have shot themselves, hanged themselves, and survived, and we continue to assist them. We coordinate care, do assessments, and then deliver our YouTurn material and coaching.  

While it’s depressing to see so many veterans struggle, it’s also immensely rewarding to know that we’re having a positive influence on these individuals. In these cases, veterans assist veterans. This means all our personnel and coaches are veterans themselves. These veterans have either overcome a substance abuse problem or are in remission. This type of peer-to-peer support is quite fulfilling, and it’s unquestionably impactful on both the veterans themselves and their families. 

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Can You Share a Recent YouTurn Success Story? 

Recently, we took the knowledge gained from developing the support network for veterans in South Carolina and applied it to the Meadows, a drug and alcohol treatment clinic in Wickenburg, Arizona. The Meadows is a nationally acclaimed treatment center for substance abuse, alcoholism. It is one of the world’s best.  

After partnering with YouTurn, they provide any of The Meadows veteran clients with our program, which includes coaching to support the veteran and their family over a 12-month period. Families receive a family recovery coach who has lived family experience with addiction. This makes it much simpler once the individual returns home from the Meadows, as the individual also receives a peer recovery coach along with the platform. 

The Meadows residents adore it. In fact, beginning in 2022, every person who visits the Meadows facility will receive the YouTurn content platform for both the family and the individual. This increases the likelihood of individuals and families who invest in a treatment center having a greater chance of success. Not only are we improving the treatment center and patient outcomes, but this enables us to grow and continue creating fresh material on our platform that can benefit more people. 

How Does YouTurn Overcome Challenges and Stigmas? 

The most significant obstacle we face with marketing or offering YouTurn services within a business is that there is so much stigma associated with drugs and alcohol. We find people are often uncomfortable discussing it. It’s the same thing as talking about stress or anxiety. There has long been an assumption that what individuals do or go through on their “off-time” is their business. If they do not bring it into the office, there should be no problem.  

As a result, it challenges us to convince businesses to embrace this as a mission statement within the organization, implying that we will discuss drugs and alcohol. It’s comparable to binge-eating, placing bets, or obsessively surfing on social media. These are all addictions, and we are here to help those who use drugs and alcohol as their outlet.  

Over half of our clients have experienced a traumatic event, such as an overdose, the death of an employee, or the suicide or overdose death of an employee, son, or daughter. Sadly, it is these types of occurrences that frequently bring this issue to light. It takes a horrific awful occurrence for the organization to recognize this is a problem, and a lot of employees have family members or loved ones who are struggling, and we need to support them.  

It is not only a moral and ethical commitment, but it is also a financial necessity. Companies suffer financial consequences if they do not provide support tools for issues such as drugs and alcohol. So, while we are making progress, we still have a lot of work to do around stigma to help people understand it is acceptable and imperative to talk about drug and alcohol addiction. 

What Is YouTurn Looking Forward to Most in Partnering with Breakroom? 

YouTurn is genuinely excited to partner with Breakroom because it creates the capacity to support more individuals in need. YouTurn is all about content creation, particularly extremely accessible high-end content led by professional therapists. So, the possibility to spread our service and put it in the hands of a larger audience means everything. Collaborating with Breakroom is a tremendous opportunity, one that we cherish, and one that we believe will enable us to serve many people who are battling in silence. 

Where Do You See YouTurn in 5 Years? 

In five years, the hope is for YouTurn to reach the stage where our program integrates into general health insurance. How exciting it would be to see YouTurn services incorporated into large firms like UnitedHealthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and other large players. To see these types of major conglomerates ensuring that YouTurn services are available to all their clientele is the big goal.  

Many companies, particularly in mental health, are doing the same thing and attempting to normalize discussion. It is real, and we are all battling it. We are all doing our best. It’s not simple, and occasionally we stray from the path, and occasionally we eat too much chocolate cake! We are all human, and everyone has their own thing. We just need to educate people about how to manage stress and anxiety, and the more effectively we do so, the less likely they are to get into difficulty with their substance of choice. 

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