Tue, Feb 07, 2017 - Page 13 News List

A personal trainer for heartbreak

Enter Mend, the online app that helps you get over that nasty breakup

By Sophia Kercher  /  NY Times news Service

Modern help for the brokenhearted? It’s online.

Photo: AP

After a traumatic breakup, Julia Scinto, a fashion designer in Manhattan, found herself searching online sites far and wide, looking for any available resource to help her feel better.

“I even considered hypnosis,” said Scinto, who designs womenswear for Macy’s private label.

Instead, she discovered Mend, an app and online community that serves as part personal trainer, part online refuge for the brokenhearted.

On the Mend app, users are introduced to an animated avatar of the Mend founder, Ellen Huerta, and her reassuring voice offers guidance on how to move forward, with topics like “detoxing” from your ex; redefining your sense of self — even how to get a better night’s sleep.

“It’s this charming and endearing voice of a friend,” Scinto said. “And there’s a line, ‘We never get tired of hearing about your breakup,’ and those words are like an oasis in the desert.”

Geri Dugan, who works as a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Chicago, knows all too well the mixed emotions that come after a love affair ends. After being stunned by a relationship that didn’t work out, she said, she felt like an “emotional basket case.”

Dugan found Mend through Huerta’s podcast “Love Is Like a Plant.” Now, for more than eight months, she has been applying Mend’s daily regime, which includes monitoring one’s self-care, journaling exercises, a Spotify playlist and a book club on Good Reads. She has also navigated through difficult days with support from Mend’s Facebook group.

It “really helped normalize the experience,” Dugan said, adding, “I’m even recommending it to some of my patients going through things like divorce.”

TAKING LOVE SERIOUSLY

In her Santa Monica, California, office, just blocks from the Pacific, Huerta, 30, with a tumble of dark hair and giant blue eyes, admitted that she had always been drawn to matters of the heart.

“Mend started very organically after I went through a breakup,” she said between sips of her hand-blended rooibos tea. “I had a lot of resources at my disposal — I had supportive friends and access to therapy — but I still was having such a hard time moving forward.”

Huerta, identified by the name Elle on Mend, found online sites that offer breakup advice to be disappointing, with generic insights like “It just takes time” or wearisome directives like “Post a photo on social media of yourself with someone new.”

She said she set out to build a better digital experience for the newly solo, where users could shake their feeling of helplessness and take action. As a former Google employee, she was familiar with the tech field and took her cues from fitness and brain-health apps.

“We are taking those parts of our lives very seriously,” she said. “Yet we weren’t doing that with our love lives, which is at the core of who we are.”

Mend started as a newsletter focused on recovering from heartbreak. Now the company is working with Silicon Beach’s highly selective business accelerator MuckerLab (whose portfolio includes tech companies like TaskRabbit and the Black Tux). MuckerLab invested seed money in Mend and assists Huerta with business development, including product design and marketing. Still less than a year old, the app has been downloaded in more than 100 countries, and many Mend users return for the supportive community, which spills over with tales of solidarity.

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