Robert Segal is extremely proud of his new horse. Though the horse is not a living breathing animal, but instead a mindful meditation tool on the website Helpguide.org; one his wife Jeanne will warn you may be upsetting for some to use, as mindful meditation is hard on those who are not comfortable with their emotions.
The Segals know a lot about emotions, as their non-profit guide, whose headquarters are located in Santa Monica, is focused on helping people deal with their mental health and wellbeing through articles and other tools available on the website.
“We try to give people, all audiences, no matter where they are, things they could do to help themselves,” Jeanne said. “If you can afford the best medical care you won’t go to Helpguide.org. That group is who we are trying to help the most.”
The site is dedicated to the Segals’ daughter, Morgan. Morgan committed suicide in 1996 and the Segals believe her death could have been avoided if she had access to professional self-help information on the Internet to help give her hope.
Robert will tell you that, though the site started as a local Rotary Club project, it has grown steadily over time into one that helps people all over the world.
“We have articles that are very help and search engine friendly,” Robert said. “And what’s more is people find us with zero publicity or marketing. It’s all word of mouth. And with just that last year we hit 81 million sessions on the site.”
And though both Segals will say they are still not that well known in their own community, that probably won’t be the case soon, as the work they have done to help others with their site has garnered them a spot in a new photography exhibit, “Portraits of Compassion,” which showcases 30 “Unsung Heroes” of Los Angeles County who are working to improve the region.
“We wanted to create an online experience that empowers people to help themselves create better mental, emotional and physical health,” reads the caption that accompanies the Segals photo at the exhibit. “We kept polishing and expanding the website. By 2012, Harvard Health Publications approached us to collaborate, we reached 50 million visitors and the positive feedback was piling up.
“We thought, ‘We must be doing something that’s helping people.’ Those numbers tell a story. We are 82 and 76 years old and more excited than ever. The creative process constantly delights us. We work with highly talented young people and savor the results. The goals set in 1999 are fulfilled beyond our wildest dreams. And we’ve been told that Helpguide.org has saved many lives.”
Robert is responsible for the website’s organization, navigation and presentation on both desktop and mobile devices. He creates the workflow, the article formatting and use of images. Jeanne is a sociologist, psychologist and writer who believes that we improve and repair our own lives and the lives of others. She is also a researcher encouraged by the wealth of new studies that link improved social and emotional well-being to informed self-help choices.
John Kobara, EVP and COO of California Community Foundation, the organization behind the exhibit, knows the Segals personally and can attest to the reason they were chosen for the exhibit.
“The exhibit is meant to honor people that are truly ‘unsung,’” Kobara said. “The people who are making a difference in the community. Those who are really just doing good work.”
Kobara said that there were 150 people nominated, and after reading through the applications and debating them, the foundation made the difficult decision of who would be the 30 “unsung heroes”; the Segals being included in that group.
“I am a big fan of Helpguide and what Robert and Jeanne have done. So I am very glad they were included in the exhibit.”
The Segals are proud of what they do and hope to continue doing it into the foreseeable future.
“We do what we do, and the process is the reward. We are good at what we do. And it is such a privilege,” Jeanne said.
To learn more about Helpguide, visit helpguide.org.
Photo by Stella Kalinina