21 Jul 2014

A new way to tackle youth mental health

By Lily

A guest blog by Andrew Montesi, co-founder of Talk Life

According to the World Health Organisation, up to 20 percent of young people worldwide will suffer from a mental disorder.

This is alarming. We’re talking about a generation weighed down by anxiety, depression, self harm and thoughts of suicide.

Some teens are seeking professional help. But many are not. A recent report  from Australia revealed that more than 60 percent of young people with a mental health disorder are uncomfortable about seeking professional support.

When Jamie Druitt started Talklife a couple of years ago in Adelaide, South Australia, he had no idea what he was be tapping into.

He’d been through a relationship breakdown and wanted to help people like him, who were dealing with the tough “life” stuff, connect and help each other through.

After launching version one of Talklife in the App Store, he quickly realised that this was becoming something much bigger. Every day more and more young people were searching the App Store for a place to open up about problems and taboos that they couldn’t anywhere else –  dark thoughts, feelings and addictions that many could not tell family or friends about, let alone other mainstream social networks. And they were finding Talklife.

One of the most common comments from users was, “I thought I was the only one, but now I’ve now realised I’m not alone”. Almost overnight, a peer-to-peer support network was born. For many, it is the first time they have shared their struggles. Stigma has been broken, as have the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Users tell us that finding the Talklife community saved their life.

It can be heartbreaking to read what these kids are trying to process and deal with. It can be shocking, and sometimes scary. And while we have a strong moderation system in place, it is crucial that we don’t water down the ability for people to be real and open.

Two years after version one, Talklife now hosts about 8,000 users and 14,000 posts every day from as many as 125 different countries. And we’re only scraping the surface. There are so many more vulnerable people to reach.

Now, we’re at an incredible stage for Talklife. We’ve stepped out and moved from South Australia to London to join Bethnal Green Ventures. At the same time we’re kicking off a collaboration with Microsoft Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have a dedicated team of scientists helping us track and predict high risk mental health episodes.

We want to become more than just a social network, we want to change the way the world sees youth mental health.

Download Talklife for free at the App Store and Google Play.

Tweet: @TalklifeApp