You’d think a young person from a privileged background who attends a prestigious private school such as Stowe wouldn’t suffer from mental health complications. But that is unfortunately not the case.
Mental health does not discriminate – by gender, age, race, wealth or any other measure. Many people don’t even know how, or where, to ask for help, which can be a challenge in itself. A terrible stigma still hangs like a dark cloud over the whole topic.
My own problems started about 18 months after leaving Stowe, in my second year of university at the London School of Economics. But, truth be told, the problem started many years before, through trauma experienced as an even younger person. According to most therapists, this is typical of most cases; the damage is done in the early years and the cracks only start to appear around 10 years later.
I’ve struggled on for the last 30 years (I just turned 50), trying to hide it as best I could, even from close friends and family. It was never openly discussed as nobody knew what to say on the subject and it was simply swept under the carpet. Visits to hospitals and therapists were shrouded in mystery and the feelings of isolation and hopelessness simply grew and grew.
However, through sheer grit and determination, I managed to gradually carve out a relatively successful career working on some of the world’s most sought-after global brands. Was I happy? Most of the time, no. But a marriage and two lovely children meant I simply had to carry on. My life has by no means been terrible (the phrase “first world problems” springs to mind), but it has been regularly uprooted, disrupted and turned upside down by problems with severe anxiety and depression.
On 21 February 2021, after reading some truly shocking statistics in The Guardian about both the extent and severity of mental health issues in young people, I made the bold decision to try to do something about it. The idea for HOPE Guardians was born and four months later we launched in both the UK and South Africa. We had to start somewhere and we wanted to choose two markets that were completely different, so that we could learn how to launch in many more and ultimately have a global presence.
‘Hope’ is the essence of our mission. As Oscar Wilde once shrewdly put it; “Nothing should be out of the reach of hope. Life is a hope”. We believe that the worst mental health cases, the darkest moments, come when people have lost all hope.
Sir Winston Churchill also wrote; “Where there is no hope, be sure there will be no thrift”. He may have been talking in military terms, but this also applies to this ‘war’ we have been waging for centuries against an epidemic that is not only invisible, but is getting significantly worse, especially with the effects of the pandemic.
Nothing should be out of the reach of hope. Life is a hope. – Oscar Wilde
This is such a huge problem worldwide, the demand for help so limitless, that we can only make truly significant progress by pooling our resources; both human and financial.
That is why our organisation will only succeed through collaboration. Without it, we will simply be scratching the surface.
What is it that we offer?
You can visit our website for all the details, but essentially, we offer free, one-to-one (online) weekly therapy (where necessary) with true professionals.
All our therapists are vetted and selected using a rigorous process. We don’t just check their qualifications and interview them thoroughly, we insist they are registered as a professional with their country’s mental health regulator.
What’s more, young people are offered a choice of practitioners who share not only their native language (there are 11 official languages in South Africa), but also understand their local culture and context, which is so important to support them in the best way possible.
Since our launch in June 2021, we have helped 100 young people and our goal over the next six months is to multiply that number by 10, reaching 1,000 by the end of June 2022. Looking further ahead, we want to launch in many more countries, and fast. Our ambitions are virtually limitless, but we can’t do it alone.
If you think you can help in any way, by offering advice or help, or even contributing financially to our growth, please do get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
You don’t need to struggle with issues alone: HOPE Guardians are there to help with free one-to-one online therapy in your language and cultural context, with professionals. Please click here to find out more and see how you can help.