A few days ago I was speaking with a friend from a global communications agency, Madano about their work to support their colleagues, clients and families during the COVID-19 crisis. He shared with me the first publication in their upcoming series on supporting good mental health and positive mindsets during this current period of fear and uncertainty.
The screenshot illustrates a transition curve that talks about the different stages we might all be experiencing, from Fear and Uncertainty, through the Dip and out the other side into the New Normal. For this and the subsequent publications, follow them on LinkedIn.
Most likely we will all experience these phases, and pass through the curve at our own speed. During the pandemic, we will probably go through this many times too, as we get used to everyone working from homes, dealing with isolation, illness or worse.
The company I spoke with below is developing something that helps overcome not just the challenges from the pandemic, but also those that life throws at all of us.
Perhaps one of the defining characteristics of this pandemic, as opposed to other challenges we might have to overcome in our lives, is that we are all in this together. Even though we might be locked away, isolated on our own, with friends or family, we can experience empathy with others in different countries all over the world.
Through this empathy and shared experience, we can help each other through these stages, from fear, through the wobbles and on to adjusting to our new normal.
We live in a world were technology is able to overcome great distances and help create a sense of community and connection wherever we may be. The internet, mobile phones and Cloud software solutions enable us to work from home, keeping connected with our colleagues and customers.
The availability of cheap, accessible video communications technologies like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or Microsoft Teams means we can reduce our sense of separation by actually seeing the people we care about whenever we want.
Whilst technology could be considered the enabler to the hysteria and mis-information created through traditional and social media, it is also thanks to technology that we are able to experience and support each other without boundaries.
Some Crises Are More Private
Like taxes, a truth of life is that each and every one of us will, at some point, have to deal with our own personal demons, our own individual challenges and setbacks. I’ve certainly had a few.
In these times, there is no global empathy and it can be difficult to even begin to look for the support you need, even harder to find it.
Are Mental Health Problems Increasing?
“The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope. It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse[…]”Mind.org.uk
According to the charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health problems each year, with 1 in 6 people in England experiencing anxiety or depression in any given week.
Mind further report that of those who seek help only 1 in 8 are actually receiving any kind of support. It is worth remembering, that not everyone who is dealing with anxiety, stress, or depression has actually found their way to asking for help yet.
So is this something technology can help with?
Creating Self-Help Communities of Support
Nick Rothwell is a former ice-hockey player who discovered his own personal demons when he switched careers to work in the world of broadcasting.
Now, having successfully overcome the challenges life threw at him, Nick founded ReTribe to help create communities, or Tribes, to support each other, helping over come bereavements, anxieties and other life challenges.
Nick formed ReTribe with Melissa Pisante and they now work closely with Dr Misia Gervis (who is currently a consultant sport psychologist to Queens Park Rangers FC) from Brunel University to create a series of questions and programmes that form the basis of ReTribe.
As their website states, at the heart of their idea is a concept that is ancient – Tribes. Through thousands of years of evolution, humans worked together in tribes to overcome challenges and adversity, yet in modern times we seem to have lost much of that.
ReTribe’s mission is to reintroduce the positive benefits of tribes to help people overcome modern day challenges, surrounded and supported by people who are also dealing with the same issues.
After all, those who can best support us in our time of difficulty are those who have had the same experience, those who can share true empathy.
Watch the video below to hear Nick retell his personal story and how this turned him towards creating ReTribe.
Taking Support Groups Digital, Making Them Local
TV shows give us images of self-help groups in church halls, or school gymnasiums where people sit in a circle, taking it in turns to introduce themselves and share their stories. These images might be somewhat of a cliché, however, sharing your story, listening to others, building the trust, and support of those who have had similar experiences is one of the most powerful therapies available.
Whilst finding those groups of people with whom you share a struggle can be both intimidating and difficult, there are, however, many of us around you, everywhere, anytime.
ReTribe’s new app aims to help the discovery of these likeminded people easy, and meaningful.
With the support of Dr Gervis, ReTribe have carefully created a series of questions, which combined with artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to accurately match people together who have either gone through, or who are currently experiencing similar challenges, and ideally are in similar geographic locations.
Whether you’re going through the loss of a loved one, divorce, redundancy, depression, trying to lose weight or giving up smoking, or dealing with the loneliness of being locked-down and isolated, ReTribe will help you connect with people who have that all-important experience and empathy to support you in your times of need.
Bridging digital and real-world
At the time of writing we are in lockdown, and expecting the government to announce more weeks of isolation for the country. Even though I’ve spent much of my life working remotely in my home office, I am really beginning to feel the lack of social contact – and I am lucky to be locked away at home with my family, I know many others are completely alone.
So in this time, I, like so many others are truly appreciating the power of digital technologies to help us keep connected socially, but also, how important real-world social engagement is.
ReTribe’s vision is to use digital technologies to help people find the support they need wherever and whenever they need it. Through this support, to then identify and overcome their fears, finding a way through the changes and to venture back out into society.
Beyond the digital technologies, the ReTribe team combine their personal experiences with proven psychological techniques to create a unique programme of talks and workshops that the tribes take part in together. Whilst talking, Nick mentioned that their tribes (typically 3-6 people in size) have found that the accountability that is created as being part of the tribe means the individuals are much more likely to take part in the workshops and activities, and are therefore much more likely to see positive results sooner.
Nick gave me an example of a client they are working with in London:
ReTribing Elephant and Castle
The community around the Elephant and Castle shopping centre in London has gone through significant changes since it was first created more than 50 years ago. With so many changes and the economic challenges the area has suffered, the community was left quite broken, with many finding themselves dealing with a huge amount of social anxiety.
Working with ReTribe, Elephant and Castle are helping re-create the sense of community, engaging their citizens with a programme of expert led talks via a collaboration with Zoom, and real-world workshops. The challenge is to unlearn old thoughts and behaviours, to create strategies of optimism and creativity.
Using the digital tools ReTribe makes available, the participants work together on the programme to address and reduce their anxieties. ReTribe then further encourages and supports the participants to venture out to coffee shops, to yoga classes and other collaborative activities.
Moving forward, they see partnerships with more local providers, participant “ReWards” and a market place to exchange ReWards for products and services from the local partners, such as clothing, coffee, sports, transport and relaxation.
The Technology Plays a Humble Role
Like many good uses of technology, ReTribe doesn’t let technology take the limelight, instead they use it to make great things possible. The ReTribe platform and app rely on mobile technology, video communications and AI to pull it all together, but as an end user you could easily over-look this.
Helping Each Other
All of us need support at various times in our lives, and ReTribe is trying to make that easier for us all. But right now, they need our support. ReTribe have been helping create support communities for a while now, but they want to make this easier, more powerful and more accessible by developing their new mobile app.
If you, or someone you know could do with the kind of support we’ve talked about here, please consider supporting ReTribe’s KickStarter campaign here.
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