Failing Better.

We had an emotive story, an undeniably important mission, and a multi-award winning app to deliver our initiative. How hard could it possibly be to get people to click on a link and donate a quid? Very bloody hard, as it happens. 

MeeTwo is a finalist in this year’s Tech4Good Awards and through it we were given the opportunity to run a crowdfunder campaign. The theme for our campaign was a no-brainer. We wanted to conduct research with boys and co-create tools and resources to make it easier for them to access mental help when they need it. The MeeTwo app already supports 4,000 boys, and we know how hard it is for them to open up, particularly around issues such as self-harm and suicidal ideation. Although most people think self-harm primarily affects teenage girls, research now shows that 1 in 4 boys aged 16- 25 self-harm. Boys who self-harm are 17 times more likely to die by suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people. And boys account for 75% of all youth suicides.  

We thought we had it all. An emotive story, an undeniably important mission, and a multi-award winning app to deliver the initiative. And how hard could it be to get people to click on a link and donate a quid? Very bloody hard, as it happens. Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic about what we were doing, but there was a clear disconnect between them understanding the merits of the initiative, and them being willing to take two minutes out of their day to click a few buttons and fill in their credit card details. We struck lucky in the first week with a large out of the blue donation of £500 from someone who had lost a loved one to suicide. That should have given us a clue about better ways to pitch our project, but we didn’t take the hint and carried on pushing mud up a hill. 

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Because we are an app, our main strategy for connecting with potential donors was through social media. We tried all sorts of different strategies to attract attention to our mission. Tagging celebrities was a massive fail, presumably because their accounts are run by minions who view social as a way of maximising their exposure, or bagging lucrative sponsorship deals. On Insta, a ‘like’ from Miley Cyrus got us excited, but it didn’t translate into a donation. On Twitter, David Baddiel retweeted one of our tweets, but only because a previous tweet of his had revealed that he was stuck on a train and bored out of his tiny.

Although more people visit non-profit or charity websites through a phone (48%) than a computer (44%) mobile users account for just 30% of donations. (M+R benchmarking, 2019). One of the reasons for this is that the average nonprofit homepage takes 0.31 seconds longer to load on a mobile device than on a desktop. Less than a third of a second may not seem like a long time, but it is long enough to erode the enthusiasm of well intentioned, but impatient supporters. Every additional click counts so we tried to streamline our page to make donating as easy as possible, but the absence of paypal options in Crowdfunder creates a further barrier. It's frustrating to think how many people might have gotten to that point and then given up.

It was beginning to dawn on us that we may have had more luck if we had approached the crowdfunder in a different way. An Adobe review of the number of donations made after 43 million visits to the websites of 24+ charities found that three-quarters of visitors to charity websites arrived there either by doing a Web search or by directly typing in the URL. Only 3 percent of referrals actually came from social media. It was time to think again.

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In week two, we adopted a different strategy and had some small business cards printed with key statistics about self-harm and the url for the crowdfunder. These were handed out in offices and pubs and they were so popular that we had to order a reprint at the start of week three. However, they are clearly languishing in suit pockets and getting crushed in the bottom of handbags, as so far, they have not translated into a surge in donations. We got five hundred cards printed and by the end of week two we had 58 donations.

What happened next surprised us. We posted a message in the MeeTwo app about the crowdfunder. Our users are young people aged 11- 23, so we knew they were not going to be able to support the crowdfunder financially, but we thought they might tell their parents or their schools. Instead, they started to share their thoughts and their stories with us.

15 year old Karis wrote “Being a teenager myself living in South London, I know a lot of males who feel like they have to put up a facade and “be a man”, even in worst case scenarios, such as a loss in their family or a close friend. They then seek to take out their aggression and frustration by punching walls, or even attacking their peers. Nobody talks about male mental health or sees males behaving in such a way as a major issue because “they’re just boys”. To me, it seems like a cry for help. But barely anyone listens”

15 year old Jack sent us poems to share his experience of self-harm and offered us his support. He has also persuaded his headteacher to promote MeeTwo. He emailed to say “Thank you so much for this amazing campaign on such a well overlooked majority. I saw my poem on Facebook and I've been talking to my peers about MeeTwo.”

17 year-old Natalia wrote “How often have you heard someone saying ‘boys don’t cry’? Many teenage boys do not want to open up and talk about their feelings, because they are afraid of being judged by their friends, or even family members. Any signs of emotions would make them seem as weak, they think. The negative feelings that they are experiencing are bottled up, but eventually the pressure is too much.”  

Their stories and poems were posted out through Twitter and Facebook and the number and nature of donations we received began to change. The amounts were much smaller,  but what was fascinating was that they were clearly from young people and most of them were boys. As the final week of the crowdfunder approaches, we know we may not make our financial target, but this campaign has proved to us that young people want, need and are actively willing to participate in a self-harm and suicide prevention project that is specifically geared around helping boys. For us, that is the biggest win of all. 

The deadline for out final donation is Friday 15th July at noon so if you want to be a part of a crucually important initiative to break the silence around the self-harm suicide in boys, donate at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/boys-too. On social, you can help by including #T4Gmeetwo https://www.Crowdfunder.co.uk/boys-too in your posts. 

Story for a Generation

My story 

Note: (certain details cannot be shared for classified reasons, apologies)

My name is Pte Carter, I’m 21 years old and am currently a soldier in the armed forces serving in Canada. For years I’ve suffered with severe depression and borderline personality disorder. For those new to mental health, depression is a condition where your body doesn’t produce enough serotonin (the happy chemical) and you tend to feel sad without reason, this includes being overtired or being irritable, changes in diet or routine, loss of interest in things you would otherwise find joy in amongst other symptoms. 

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Borderline personality disorder is a condition similar to depression with a few differences. The anger and irritability are intensified, there is a constant shift in self-image or how you see yourself as well as chronic feelings of emptiness to name a few.

Having one or the other of these conditions is manageable however both together requires a specialist to go through a customized therapy course. Unfortunately, when I sought help for these my support network was ripped away from me, I ended up going through the recovery alone. BUT, don’t despair because the things I learned doing this alone made me stronger than I’ve ever been. 

The first thing I learned is don’t dwell on the fact you have a condition try not to focus on it. Life is 99% mental and 1% physical. If you want something to happen, you will create it through a series of subconscious actions. This is for the day-to-day stuff.

The second thing is when you get a chance, spend time alone, look inward and be brutally honest with yourself “what problems am I facing? What causes me an issue during the day?” Focus on the small details, the bigger things will become clearer in time. Don’t generalize the issues, really try and pin them down and be exact as you can, “I have an issue with alcohol, why is that? My friends have a large influence, don’t hang out with those people as much.” 

Thirdly, exercise, I know, a widely thrown out remedy, but it does help with focus. I found Crossfit after I left school, having to focus on each movement so I could lift the heavier weights gave me the starting focus I needed for everyday life. Exercise is also a good stress reliever, I would go in the evenings to relieve stress and anger I kept held in during the day, I ended up looking forward to going to the gym at the end of the day and became a little competitive. 

My next piece of advice is to not be afraid to express yourself in the purest form, often we think people are judgemental, and some are, however very often if you open up to people they will be positive and accepting of you. Having an opinion does not make you a bad person and expressing yourself doesn’t make you evil. It’s called being human, we’re all guilty of it.

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Another part I’ve learned is that if you have trouble interacting with people, learn how to conversate, learn about body language and how people will react when you say certain words or phrases. Practice giving a Nobel prize speech on your own, to the mirror, or a trusted family member or friend. 

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, wrong with wanting to be alone sometimes, we need it to reset and relax ready for the next working day. I ride a Harley Davidson myself, I love to work on it in the garage with the music blasting, sometimes I get caught dancing around the bike like a witch doctor summoning the rain. 

My last piece of advice is stay off the internet, the world you know now has changed so quickly in the last fifty years it’s nearly unrecognizable. Don’t let what the internet has to say sway you. By all means if you use it for research or for your job then go for it, but where you can, stay away from it, the real world has so much more to offer.

We talk about the window of opportunity, but you don’t have to look for the window if you go outside. You are the respective king/queen of your world, no one has the right to make anyone feel bad or put you down, no right to stop you from being who you want to be. You can write your own rules for life, it’s all up to you.

Learn to stay calm in everyday things, if your being yelled at, just keep breathing and think of other things, people will gravitate towards the calmest person in the room. 

Footnote:

(I hope this finds its way to someone who can use it to better their lives, this is the tip of the iceberg of advice I can give. These were just the key things that helped me get started on the road to recovery. )

 

Pte Carter-Silk

Canadian armed forces

 

Thank you Pte Carter-Silk for your inspiring story and advice.