#54 - How to Use Technology to Prevent Suicide with Amanda Johnstone, Founder of "Be a Looper"

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By Stephen Hays. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

How can we use technology to stop suicide? How can we leverage technology to encourage vulnerability and connectivity to help people deal with difficult times? We dig in to these ideas today with Be A Looper Founder and CEO, Amanda Johnstone. Amanda and I met during a mental health tech conference (Transformative Tech Conference) in Palo Alto during November 2019. We had such a great conversation about suicide prevention, mental health, tech, and other stuff that I just had to ask her to come on and share her insights with our friends.

Amanda is from Australia. She is a social impact technologist, an inventor, an investor, a speaker an entrepreneur and has been recognized globally for her efforts around suicide prevention. Recently, she was awarded Time Magazine’s Next Generation Leader award for 2019. Past winners of this award include Greta Thunberg, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and others.

In this conversation we talk at length about the power of vulnerability, connecting with others, and how we can do a better job showing up in the world in a way where we encourage and promote others to be vulnerable and open in order to both live well, and manage through difficult times in their lives.

There are a number of ways to connect with Amanda including on social media which will be linked in the show notes.

You can connect with Amanda here: Personal Website, Be A Looper Website, Transhuman Website, LinkedIn

Mentioned: The Power of Vulnerability with Brene Brown (Ted Talk)

Download Be A Looper here: https://www.bealooper.com/downloadlooper

Time Magazine: Interview with Amanda Johnstone on Innovating to Stop Suicide

HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:

  1. How can we use our mobile phone, the thing that is in our hand every day, to bring us closer together? This is the question that drove Amanda to build a social support platform to encourage vulnerability and connectivity, called, Be A Looper.
  2. Be A Looper is a circle of friends who care about you and check in, in a vulnerable way on a daily basis. As someone struggles with their well-being, or starts to feel distressed, then your circle is notified to provide support.
  3. Amanda talks about how she has struggled to be authentic and how she struggles to present herself in the media and in business one way, but that in reality she feels another. She talks about how she was sleeping on her friend’s couch, and her life was falling apart, and at the same time she was presenting herself as a successful entrepreneur. She needed to be real. She needed to be authentic. She needed to check in with herself and with others and she needed a way to do that. Her solution, Be A Looper, provides a way for her to be real, even if just briefly each day, in a way that helps her check in with herself, and evaluate the narrative she’s putting out there and how that’s impacting the ability of others to be authentic with her as well.
  4. The science of how Be A Looper works is very interesting. See below… (these descriptions can be found on the Be A Looper website here): Social Support - Be A Looper is driven by social support, with the emphasis on reducing isolation by providing a sense of safety and community. We know from Self-Determination Theory that the concept of relatedness as a powerful need and driver of behavior has been proven out in many settings. Allied to this concept is the need to support autonomy and competence, related to self-efficacy, all part of ways to prevent the onset of helplessness, which is a driver of suicidal ideation. Chain Diffusion - We also know that when someone close has suicided, the barrier to suicide of persons close to them weakens. Individual behaviors such as this can spread across groups and cultures through a process called chain diffusion. This occurs when an individual first learns a behavior by experiencing someone else doing this, and this then serves as a model through which they and others learn the behavior, and so on. Relatedness in this way backfires, so modelling a more positive approach to dealing with despair is crucial. Self-efficacy - Outcomes in behavior change to healthier options, as with all intrinsic drivers depend on a sense of effectance, competence, self-efficacy, concepts all related to Allbert Badura’s concept that the way we approach life’s challenges is heavily influenced by our sense that the actions we are about to undertake will achieve the desired outcome, the opposite in a way to the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that may accompany suicidal ideation. Scaffolding a sense of efficacy, a sense that one swipe will alter the outcome, or similar low-threshold action will change the present in favor of a more definite future, has underpinned our Be A Looper approach. Choosing a behavior in the here and now that will have the best outcome over the temporal future, valuing this future over the now, is key to our desire to save lives one trusted contact at a time. Role Modelling Vulnerability - Observational learning theory suggests that an individual’s environment, cognition and related behavior all integrate and ultimately determine how that individual functions, and ultimately determine how that individual will function. Based on the above, learning to express distress in a non-confronting way that supports rescuing actions by others, can lower the barriers to communicating distress by modelling it for others in a process of chain diffusion.
  5. The science of how Be A Looper works is very interesting. See below… (these descriptions can be found on the Be A Looper website here).
  6. They are coming out with a version that allows a provider or employer to provide this to their populations.
  7. They have several years of anonymized data that shows how helpful this intervention has been with people who were in distress.
  8. We spent a lot of time talking about vulnerability and how important it is in reducing stigma, helping ourselves, helping others, and creating connectivity.

Connect with the Stigma Podcast in the following ways: Patreon Page, Website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Email

Connect with host Stephen Hays here: Stephen Hays Personal Website, Twitter, LinkedIn, What If Ventures (Mental Health Venture Fund)

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