Bullying. Cutting. Suicide.
These are not the prettiest words you can associate with youth. Unfortunately for some young people, reality can seem far from pretty and a lack of open discussions with close friends or family could just make things worse.
But, things could very well change in the future.
Talklife, a global social network that enables young people to open up about taboo issues including depression, self-harm and even suicide, has joined a London-based business accelerator after closing its first round of funding and launching a collaboration with Microsoft Research.
Social Media can be a safe and understanding environment
The South Australian startup was founded by Jamie Druitt. After his own difficult episode, Druitt saw an opportunity to connect struggling people through a social network where unpopular or ‘taboo’ topics were no longer off limits.
At a time where social media is often the preferred agent of cyber bullying, Talklife is set to channel its powers for the greater good.
The idea seems to be taking off.
The app has since grown to 8,000 users per day across 125 countries in the last two years.
While it’s no replacement for professional counselling, Talklife has built-in safety features and keyword filters that recommend further action is a user posts something extreme. There are also moderators around the globe removing inappropriate posts flagged by the community.
Scaling Up, Going Global
One of the greatest challenges for Talklife was securing the funding necessary for a sustainable business model. Prior to this, the platform had been funded by Druitt himself, and run with the help of a few big-hearted volunteers.
After receiving support from local investors and London’s Bethnal Green Ventures, Talklife could be set to create a greater impact, helping more users worldwide.
“This is the most exciting time in Talklife’s short history,” Mr Druitt said. “We’ve had great investors get on board, who are Adelaide-based businessmen with a passion for tackling youth mental health and helping Talklife become the social network that saves lives,” he added.
Bethnal Green Ventures is an accelerator programme for tech start-ups that want to make a positive impact on the world, and Druitt is currently embarking on the programme for three months.
“We’re a unique start up addressing a massive global problem, and after talking to Bethnal Green about their values it was clear they are the perfect accelerator for us.”
Mr Druitt said the support from investors and Bethnal Green Ventures will boost Talklife’s plan to analyse and predict high risk mental health episodes, which has already begun through a new collaboration with Microsoft Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gaining Deeper Insights on Youth Mental Health.
So, it’s not just funding and scaling up that Talklife is interested in. There is a whole world of knowledge to be discovered in the area of youth mental health.
The company has been working with Professor Eric Horvitz of Microsoft Research, one of the world’s leading experts in human and machine reasoning, who has assigned scientists to analyse their data.
“It is early days, but the team is using the huge volume of live data in Talklife hoping to gain a unique understanding of youth mental health and enable us to predict and prevent high risk issues, such as self harm and suicide.” said Druitt.
If there were more tech start-ups like these, social media could really be a life-saving tool.