76% of young people with mental health issues never get treated, 50% of all adult mental health issues begin by age 14, 1 in 5 people self harm by the age of 16. The list of obstacles facing today’s youth goes on and the statistics show it.
Alleviating the harm done during these formative years and ensuring solid foundations are built for future success is a social media application. You read that right, enter: MeeTwo. Developed to help empower young people ride the turbulence of being a teen, MeeTwo is a peer-to-peer support app designed to function like other social media platforms on the market albeit with vastly different intentions.
Can you explain to us what MeeTwo is and how it works?
MeeTwo is a social media application designed to allow teenagers an anonymous platform to vent to their peers, ask for advice and deal with mental health issues.
Users come onto the app and post a question or post a reply to another user. Before going live, these submissions are passed to a team of trained moderators. These are people that understand what a safe post is and also when to reach out to at-risk users. We couple this with machine learning to ensure the human part is as effective and supportive as possible. This is the first level. If we say no at this stage, the posts gets escalated to a team of individuals with a background in psychology.
This is all part of safeguarding the system. Because this is peer-to-peer, we don’t allow certain issues to appear on the platform due to the severity of the problem. Those are best reserved for specialists. If we do get submissions of this type, our teams contact the users and redirect them to the proper resources.
You allow for feedback to be written on the accepted posts by the users. Do you think this benefits the peers providing this feedback?
Absolutely. We scoured the research into peer support - both peer support online but also in the real world. One thing that's very clear is that the helper often benefits more than the person who's being helped. Helping peers in this way benefits the helper because it's a natural way to encourage reflection of their own experiences and rewards them for sharing their views and thoughts. This exercise boosts self-esteem for the contributors as well as the individuals asking for help.
For the teenager wanting to discuss an issue that they’re going through, the app is a really great place to experiment with what it feels like to talk about a problem. We often find within the app that people come on and say something quite vague about how they're feeling and about what's happened. Then because other young people gently ask them questions like ‘we don't quite understand what you mean’ or ‘could you explain a bit further?’ it helps them drill down into what is actually the problem that they’re going through.
What other benefits do these sorts of online interactions have for the users of MeeTwo?
The app was designed to help young people build their resilience. Having peer-to-peer support and feedback saying “hey, hang in there you will get through this” is particularly helpful for teenagers.
One question we get quite often on the app is - 'I am 17 or 18 and I've never been in a relationship or I've never been kissed is there something wrong with me?' Most of the questions the teenagers are asking are iterations of ‘Is there something wrong with me? Am I normal?’
As adults, we’ve been through a lot of these experiences before. So it would be easy for an adult to respond with ‘you're perfectly fine and of course you will find somebody in the future’ but it's not particularly reassuring. When somebody much closer in age is the one saying those things it comes across as much more relatable and authentic which is really empowering.
To understand the psychology behind adolescent behavior how did you conduct research?
Before launching the business, we spent nine months doing user research. We talked to parents and young people. We analysed the existing research on peer support in digital and real-world forms. After founding the company we spent two years doing small pilots of the product in schools with young people before going public.
We also organised as co-creation workshops. Our intentions were to create MeeTwo with young people at the center. We wanted to learn exactly what this demographic wanted and design something according to what they like. For example, something we learned early on was that kids don't like to use websites. This information was vital in the decision to make MeeTwo an application.
How has the anonymity aspect of the app contributed to its success amongst its teenage users?
A crucial part of effective peer support comes from being able to ask anything without fear that it can be linked to you. A lot of our internet activity can be traced to our public social media identities and with topics as sensitive as mental health, it was important to create a space where the person could be separated from the question. Especially for this demographic.
Teens discuss topics like getting braces or having school related anxiety along with other more serious things. For boys you see a lot of discussion over body insecurities that could not be presented in a space that does not provide anonymity.
What is moving about MeeTwo is that young people use it to talk about a great range of problems and are surrounded by a community that assures them they struggle with these problems as well.
The most fundamental part of the solution was the MeeTwo button. Users post their pieces and ask “am I normal, is there anybody else facing the same thing”. The MeeTwo button lets others affirm that, yes, they face these issues as well.
Can insights from anonymous user data be used to further improve young people’s lives?
As an engineer this is one of the bits that really excites me. Due to the anonymity of MeeTwo, we are able to see what young people are talking about and aggregate these posts to gain a greater insight into their lives. We have a year and a half’s worth of data and already patterns are beginning to emerge. Already the results point out trends in triggers for stress in teenagers’ lives. We think in three or four years we will have sufficient data to be able to affect policy both within the education area and within health for the better.