Depression Alliance

Agency: Rufus Leonard

Rufus Leonard built a peer-to-peer support website for Depression Alliance’s online community


Depression affects one in four people, yet it is rarely talked about and often misunderstood. Depressed people are left feeling isolated and alone. Sometimes, this loneliness kills.

Depression Alliance has a long history of helping people with depression connect with others who could understand. Their established network of face-to-face peer support groups offers invaluable support, but there were limitations in the help they could provide. Groups are only available in certain areas, couldn’t provide support outside of meetings, and the severely depressed often found it too intimidating to attend in person.

Depression Alliance decided to use the power of social media to help more people. They wanted create a peer-to-peer support site that helped users to get well, and stay well. And so, Friends in Need was born.


In the depths of depression users are very vulnerable. The most important thing was creating a positive experience for a group of people who were, by definition, feeling very negative. This was achieved in two ways: through the site structure, and through the targeting potential ‘helpers’.

The site was structured around the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’, an evidence based approach to mental health. Content was structured to create an accessible approach to wellness, to help people whatever their stage of recovery.

The most important group in establishing this peer-to-peer support network were those who wanted to help others with depression. Our aim was to make it easy for users to do just this, basing our content around the proposition ‘be a friend’.


Our work included development of the brand identity, audience research and personal development, experience design, copywriting, platform selection, digital development, delivery and ongoing maintenance. User experience were particularly involved in ensuring that the site was suitable for a very depressed user.

With Depression Alliance managing their content on a day-to-day basis we invested in developing tone of voice principles to aid them, for example: in creating contextual help messaging and headlines, ensuring that the content continues to engage with their audience and meet the brand positioning.


The site launched in January 2014. Over the last four months results have been positive, and we have surpassed some KPIs already.

• Help Depression Alliance reach a broader group of people – 45 per cent of visits were referrals from outside of Depression Alliance sites and groups
• Help Depression Alliance support more people – over 1900 users have registered with the site since November 2013
• Drive user registration – the KPI for conversion of visitors into registered users was beaten, achieving 170 per cent of the target (a 17 per cent conversion rate)
• Engage users – high levels of engagement with the site, with an average visit duration of 9 minutes 42 seconds and an average of 8.97 pages per visit
• Create ongoing engagement – 46.5 per cent of site visits are repeat visitors, with 11, 152 repeat visits since November 2013