Networking the healthcare world through Content, Events and Connections

WHF Magazine Globe

Accessing teenage mental health support on demand

May 5, 2022
by Healthcare World

MeeToo enables young people with mental health issues to help themselves and help others, co-founder Suzi Godson tells Healthcare World Editor Sarah Cartledge.

Since the start of the pandemic, mental health issues have become increasingly talked about. Recently there have been news stories about young people developing nervous tics since the advent of COVID, adding to the stress around their education problems as a result of school closures.

Fortunately there is help at hand in the form of an app called MeeToo, developed by Suzi Godson and her business partner Dr Kerstyn Comley. Suzi, the sex and relationships columnist for the Times newspaper, found her inbox increasingly filled with questions from teenagers who were either embarrassed or who wanted some form of distance while searching for answers to typical adolescent problems.

“Young people tend to have all sorts of anxieties and we felt the best way to descale them was through interacting with peers in a safe environment,” Suzi says. “I realised a long time ago that the best solution was a digital one where they can safely get advice, not from experts but from each other.”

The MeeToo app allows them to talk anonymously about difficult things with other people of a similar age or experience. They can access help with their problems or use their experiences to support others. The app is a safe space where all posts and replies are checked before going live, so there is no harassment, bullying or grooming.

Understanding the teenage brain

Providing 365 day support, the app is beginning to remove the stigma around mental health issues that still prevents those suffering from seeking reassurance. “Teenagers use it anonymously so they feel safe yet in touch,” says Suzi. “All posts are moderated and if we feel there is a real issue we can intervene and ascertain what the situation is. Teenagers can tend to exaggerate, and it may be that a post which says the author is considering self-harming or suicide is just an way of expressing emotion rather than anything more serious.”

Most importantly, it helps young people understand that their feelings and emotions are common in their age group. “There’s this sense that you’re the only one out there feeling this way and everybody else is different to you. And the great thing about support is that it normalises all sorts of stuff and helps them process what they are going through. It’s a way of deescalating their anxieties.”

During lockdown Suzi and Kerstyn spent their time refining the app for its users. They then decided to promote it via social media, as they realised that teenagers prefer to find their own solutions. “They want to remain anonymous so we have to reach them directly,” Suzi says. “By finding us in their social media feeds they can reach out to us with confidence. We also want to the app to be free at the point of use so that any young person can access it, particularly as we are trying to reach the most disadvantaged in society.”

MeeToo has a team of trained moderators, counsellors and super-peers who provide psychological support. In addition, each new user becomes a new counsellor so the service is eminently scalable and instantly accessible in the hour of need.

There are now 54 schools in the UK paying for the service, but according to Suzi, UK universities have proved more difficult to penetrate because they don’t actively engage with the students. Exeter University and York University are providing the service although it’s still hard to get the word out to the students that it’s available. “Every four days a university student dies by suicide, so it’s really important to let students know that help is easily accessible,” she stresses.

At Exeter and Reading Universities a peer programme is in place where MeeToo trains psychology undergraduates and in return the students provide support to users for around four and a half hours. It gives the students hands-on training and they also receive course credits.

Suzi is currently part of the Times Education Commission, looking at ways to improve schools and education. “The Times has been incredibly supportive and have done a great deal to promote us,” she says.

Building the evidence base

MeeToo was independently evaluated in 2021 by the Evidence Based Practice Unit. Founded in 2006 as a collaboration between UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences and Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, EBPU bridges cuttingedge research and innovative practice in children’s mental health.

They conducted a study with 876 young people, and Suzi says they found statistically significant evidence that using MeeToo improves mental health, increases confidence and connectedness and decreases feelings of loneliness. “It also improves mental health self-management, so basically kids equip kids with the tools they need to manage their own mental health, making them feel more confident in their day to day life.

“It’s really unusual to have that evidence base, particularly as there are so many apps out there and it’s difficult for people to differentiate between them,” she adds. “So we’re constantly building our evidence base and our data is what makes us really extraordinary because obviously we can see what’s going on with young people.

“Our insights are feeding into research we are undertaking with Bristol University and Sussex University, the aim of which is to build a state of the art suicide support system for young people.”

Suzi and her team have spent several weeks at Expo 2020, where MeeToo was supported by Expo Live with a grant of $100,000. “MeeToo has generated a huge amount of interest as peer to peer support is scalable, where individual counselling is just not financially possible for the amount of young people who need help,” says Suzi. “And we don’t have time to educate the educators about the importance of having automated mental health support. We run surveys and we know that 31 percent of our users have some form of disability – 16 per cent with autism and 18 per cent with ADD and many of them are in social care. So we’re reaching the really hard to reach kids which is our aim.”

Share this article

< Back to home

We are
Healthcare World

The leading, networking, publishing, events
and consultancy business for international healthcare


If you’re looking to take your business
overseas, we can help you...

Share This