I was watching the beginning of the latest series of Big Little Lies. In it a young teen explains to her Mum why she doesn’t want to go to college: she wants to join a start up that is a for-profit organisation providing accommodation for the homeless.
Obviously this was an effort to create a scenario that showcases the millennial snowflake generation set of ideals against the traditional. I found my 47 year old self on the side of the teenager, and so the cognitive dissonance begins.
In my lifetime I have done two important things: 1. I had two daughters and raised them with awareness and 2. I set up a not-for-profit organisation: Young Rewired State in 2007, aimed at bringing together the naturally talented young programmers and engineers who were brilliant but failing at school and failing exams, with few work or learning options and no community. The second failed in 2016, a victim of its own success and lack of sustainable business model/scale which is a total personal failure as I should have listened and learned (in some instances) to those who had slightly different values to myself, but who could have kept this important work alive.
When my darling nephew died in 2017 at age 19 and broke the world, my passing interest in mental health became far more than that, it became my lifeline. Although he did take his own life, there is scant evidence that there were mental health problems in advance of this act, it is all too sadly likely that this was a rash drunken decision — but we will never know.
However, the groups in which I sought and found comfort opened my eyes to a world of crisis especially with our young people and their mental health. Too many young people, google the stats it will shock you, and changes for the worst on a month by month basis. A story that broke my heart even more was from a mother in a group I had been a part of for a few months after my nephew died, who joined us when her 16 year old son got up from the family sofa, made a cup of tea for his parents and siblings, went back into the kitchen to get his own cup, walked into the garden and hung himself. No sign, rhyme or reason.
For several years, even before my nephew took his life, I had been working on an idea for a ‘spa for teens’ based on my interest in the 97ers generation. This rapidly became an idea for a cool members club for kids aged 16–24 where every person they came in touch with in the club including baristas and security had mental health training, but we also ran fun stuff and events that helped address all of the challenges facing them. With parental sessions early in the day to help scared grown ups.
I have the business plan and the breakdown of what it will take but my one thing was: it cannot fail like Young Rewired State. This is even more important IT HAS TO HAVE a sustainable business model. I cannot swoon into my liberal snowflake brain and make this a not-for-profit that relies wholly on donations and has no (slightly unethical in my mind) business model. This has to speak to the rich kids and their money in order to meet some of the needs of those who cannot pay.
And so I have been paralysed, for years now. I want to do this, I know what is needed. I know there is a business model here that will make it self sustaining and bring rewards for investors. But I can’t take the first step as my cognitive dissonance is so massive I can’t even begin to take the necessary next steps… but I KNOW we need this and I know this will save lives.
What would you do?