Meet this year’s Coralus Ventures in Canada, the US, and the UK and learn about their work on the World’s To-Do List.

Fostering Connections with Kerstyn Comley of MeeToo Education

“By making those connections in this very safe environment, it allows people to get all of that support and access they need.”

— Kerstyn Comley, Co-Founder of MeeToo

In this episode

Meet SheEO Venture MeeToo! Co-founder Kerstyn Comley joins SheEO Activator Joanna Denton to tell us all about the platform, how they got started, and how it works to help young people with mental health challenges.

They also discuss:

  • The importance of having peer-to-peer support
  • Adapting support for various age groups
  • Creating a safe environment
  • Normalization of the problem
  • And making time for her own mental health

We invite you to join us as an Activator at SheEO.World.

Take action and engage with MeeToo:

Learn more about Joanna’s work on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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Podcast Transcript:

The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).

Kerstyn Comley 0:00
If we just started focusing on revenue from the outset, we wouldn’t have built a solution to the mental health crisis, we’d have built some kind of product that, you know, can be sold and made money. But that wouldn’t have satisfied the problem that we’re trying to tackle.

Vicki Saunders 0:17
Welcome to SheEO dot world podcast, where you’ll meet women and non binary folks who are transforming the world to be more equitable, and sustainable.

Joanna Denton 0:29
Good morning, good afternoon. Good evening, wherever you are, whenever you are listening, this is the SheEO world podcast. And my name is Joanna Denton, I’m a UK activator for the last 18 months. I’m an executive coach working with stressed out and exhausted executives and entrepreneurs, helping them get their life back and a bit of work life balance before the crash and burn. But that’s not why I’m here today. I’m here today to speak to Kerstyn Comley from UK venture MeeToo Education. And I am delighted to see you today. Thank you so much for coming on and having a chat.

Kerstyn Comley 1:04
Oh, you’re very welcome. It’s very good to be here.

Joanna Denton 1:07
Now, if I go on to the venture platform and look up about your about the company, this is what it says: we develop and deliver safe evidenced, digital peer support apps to enable young people with mental health issues help themselves and help each other. Now, I know a little bit about the company having looked up around it. But for those who are listening who might not know what you’re doing, can I ask you to explain a little bit more about the venture? What problem you’re solving, how you got here, all of that sort of thing?

Kerstyn Comley 1:39
Sure. Yeah. So I think everybody feels they know that mental health is in crisis. And, you know, unfortunately, COVID seems only made that worse, and particularly youth mental health is really struggling. And that’s not just in the UK, actually, that’s, you know, that’s, that’s all across the world. The WHO even before COVID recognized poor mental health as being one of the leading disabilities worldwide. So when I met my co-founder, Suzi Godson, and she’s a research psychologist and a journalist, and my background is in engineering and tech, we felt that we wanted to create a solution. And she had this really brilliant idea that one of the big challenges for young people is it’s really hard to find a space to ask those awkward and difficult questions. And I’m sure we can all remember being that awkward 14-year-old with those things that were worrying us and not knowing who to turn to. And that’s coupled with some really interesting work looking at the way that teenage brains work number of researchers working on this, but in particular surgeon Blakemore, who’s now at Cambridge University. And what’s very clear is that in that period of adolescence, young people actually trust other young people more than they trust adults or experts. And as well as that they all have a smartphone in their pocket. So Suzi’s initial idea was to create an app where young people could anonymously ask those really tricky questions, and get advice and support from other young people who would know exactly what they’re going through. And who better to talk to a 14-year-old about what it’s like to have had their first breakup from their first major relationship, but than a 15-year-old, who remembers going through it. And there’s a big difficulty with adults that I think we tend to forget what it was really like, we felt that this was a really great solution. And we also felt that it was a solution going to be scalable. So one of the big problems not just in the UK, but very differently for the UK, is that the mental health support systems, so for example, the child life and mental health service cams, and all of those systems around them, are pretty much based on crisis care. So somebody has to be really ill, before they get the support that they need. And one of the reasons for that is because it is so hard to scale one to one interaction and intervention. And so there’s a limited amount of resource and support that can be delivered. And so you know, they inevitably have to have to keep it to those people who are at the sort of most severe and significant end of poor mental health. But of course, the beauty with peer support is that every new person in the community effectively becomes a new person to offer advice or counseling. So it’s potentially infinitely scalable. And that really excited us that we could actually start to bring the problem back to the early intervention space and be working with young people to prevent their issues from escalating rather than only tackling it when problems became really severe. So back in 2015, we founded the company and we spent the first two years doing a lot of research, the both of us are geeks at heart. You know, we’re really sort of interested in research, everything we do is backed up by evidence we dig into the academia. And so we actually created a pilot that we ran in three schools and really interesting learnt a lot from that little pilot, learned that, you know, this was a service that was really going to be appreciated and needed, but it was a service that young people wanted to have in their own private personal space. And that was another another reason for at that point, it was a web based for products, but we quickly switched to becoming making it an app that they could download from the App or the Play Store, they can have it on their phone at any moment. You know, we see the heaviest levels of usage actually been in the evenings, often quite late evenings, young people being on their own. And so yeah, it’s been a pretty incredible six years, we launched the app in 2017. Since then, we’ve had over 65,000, young people have accessed it and used it. And currently we see around 6000 people using it on a monthly basis.

Joanna Denton 5:57
So the first thing that comes into my mind is in terms of peer support, and one to one as an interested observer, my first thought was, oh, well, what about training? Well, what happens if they say the wrong thing? And, and, you know, well, surely, that’s just open to disaster? And I, you know, I know, that was one of the words that I find to be really, really important, and that description is safe. So how do you go about curating the content or supervising the content? Or do you use this? Or is this just a kind of a free a free for all?

Kerstyn Comley 6:24
Absolutely. And I think, although we didn’t, it wasn’t a deliberate decision, the fact that we have chosen to work with children means that we have been obliged to create the safest system that we can. And so as we move into the adult space, we’ve got this system that is so much more robust and safe than than anything you can see similar. And so a critical thing for this is pre moderation. So this means checking everything before it goes live. So we have a team of moderators who work throughout the day, to look at every single post and every single reply. And initially, we thought oh you know, their main role is going to be to get rid of the haters, the trolls, and all that, you know, all the horrible people, you see on the set of social media. In fact, actually, because the community is so positive, because everybody knows everything’s going to be checked. Very few people write anything unpleasant. But what we have found is that people come to us with very complex and severe problems, problems that are too difficult for peer community to respond to. So the vast majority, 90% of the posts that get made, the questions that get asked are things that can be answered by another young person. And that ranges from really my stuff like, “Hey, I’ve run out of good music to listen to, what would you recommend,” or “I’m gonna get my braces fitted tomorrow, and I’m bit nervous,” right through to much more difficult issues, say around eating disorders or self harm, we can come back and talk about that in a minute. But so they can all go through to the community. So the moderators will check them, they will risk assess and put them through to the community. But there are certain things that can’t and the most common is the discussions around suicide or suicidal ideation. So in fact, anything that’s to the severe for the peer community gets redirected. We have a small team of in-house counselors, who will respond directly to that young person and work with them to identify what the next best step is for them. Now, we’re very clear, we are not a counseling platform. So although our counselors all have a background in counseling, they don’t provide counseling, but what they’re providing is that conversation with that young person to help them unwrap that problem and figure out what is the next best thing. Now, quite often 50% of the time that “I want to die” post is because if something’s happened, and they’re using the language, we use it all the time, to express an emotion, they don’t actually have any suicidal intention. But in but even in the conversation that the counselor will have with them, let’s say they’ve had an argument with their best friend, the counselor can tease that out of them, they can then go back to the community and actually talk about the problem they’ve got and get the support, how to resolve that. The other 50% of the time, it is more serious. And so we would then be encouraging them to have conversations with their relatives with their school, maybe connecting to their to their crisis helpline, or you know, or talking to the GP and just really advocating for them in a way and giving them the agency to know how to take the steps that they need to take to really address the issues that they’ve gotten that moment. The other thing that we do that works really well for us is we train undergraduate psychology students to be Super-Peers. And so they are in the app, you wouldn’t know them any different from anybody else. But they are in the app, making sure that nobody gets left out and making sure that everybody gets high quality replies, and they only reply to about 15%, you know, 15% of the content comes from Super-Peers, but it’s enough to provide model replies that other young people can can respond to the other thing we do, which, which actually doesn’t really impact safety, because everything is moderated, but we also – the app is age bounded. So if you’re under the age of 18, you only get to see posts from people who are either two years older or two years younger than you. And so that means that you’re talking with a group of people who are sharing a similar set of experiences. And that just makes the feed and the post that much more relevant to each person. Over the age of 18 it’s sort of all together, although as the app is growing, we’re exploring different ways that we might segment the adults space as well.

Joanna Denton 10:40
Just going back to those complex situations, and that that kind of conversation that happens, is that a conversation that actually takes place, pick up the phone, talk to the peer, or is it still through the platform, you know, by texting each other, and so on.

Kerstyn Comley 10:54
It’s all text. I mean, it feels like social media, we’ve deliberately designed the whole app to feel like social media, because that’s where young people like to hang out, it’s where they feel comfortable. But the fact that everything, even the replies are checked before it goes live. And we have this whole counselor system, it’s obviously, it isn’t social media at all. And it’s quite interesting as well, that the, it adds, it’s creates a different dynamic, because what we often see is the fact that somebody post and wait for a reply does provide in a certain time, amount of time for reflection, as well. And our counselors are very aware of this. And they may even, sometimes they’ll respond quickly, they can see that that’s needed. Sometimes they might deliberately slow the conversation down a bit, which, you know, so we’re able to sort of adapt. And we also know that that young people in particular, really, really struggle with telephone calls, you know, they want to be using text, They don’t like picking up the phone. In fact, what we’ve heard anecdotally, from quite a few of the mental health providers that we work with is that during lockdown, lots of young people struggled with video calls as well, they they really liked going in and meeting somebody face to face. But the video bit was that that more daunting and impersonal for them. So it’s kind of either together face to face, or text based is what young people like best.

Joanna Denton 12:14
That’s so interesting to do, to kind of think about that in terms of the way that’s been developing. And I’m thinking in particular, because you mentioned, you’ve mentioned a couple of times getting into the adult space, and kind of segmenting that out. And I’m wondering, is there a fundamentally different approach that you’re taking in the adult space? Or are they are they essentially just young adults, that they’re only a teenager last year?

Kerstyn Comley 12:40
Yes, our priority, since we launched has been to focus on 11 to 25. So that’s what we would classify as young people. But we are seeing usage above 25, and are also doing quite a lot of work at the moment to support trainee teachers, who, the majority of whom are in that sort of early twenties bracket. But I think, yeah, it’s a bit early to be to be conclusive, but I think we we do think we’re seeing slightly different behavior in the adult space. We’ve tried to be as comprehensive as we can, because we consider all sorts of things that could improve somebody’s mental health. There are great services, charities, you know, the classic ones, but there are also apps and videos and books. And we’re finding that the adults really seem to value that that directory of resources and the fact that they can filter it so that it you know, if they were struggling with anxiety, they can filter it by anxiety. And so we suspect that there may be fewer conversations happening, you know, that the younger you are, the more less more chatter there is. And it’s looking like in the adult space, it’s, it’s a bit slower, I guess people are, are able, so to search through posts and find a post that was relevant to them, and they don’t know if we’ll need to post. So we’re still monitoring that. But we, you know, we can see that there’s just as much potential in the adult space as there is in the youth space. The other thing that we’ve we’ve very deliberately designed is that the posts are only 350 characters long. So bit like a tweet in a way. And what’s interesting, we did that we saw lots of forums where you can you have unlimited words. And it’s actually really difficult to offer somebody support when they when they prefer boasts description of their problem. Whereas by by encouraging people to be succinct, it makes it much easier for other people to offer that support the support and get to the heart of the problem. And we get lots of pushback from our users because they want to tell us their life story and we have to explain but you know, if you want if you want good support, you have to be really clear about your problem. And they tend to they tend to understand that in the end but yeah, so so we you know, we are playing and testing every with every aspect of the design of the app, everything we do. Another example is like social media. There some little buttons you can click on. But unlike social media, we’ve thought really carefully about how those little buttons or icons will affect the person’s mental health. And so we only have two, we have the MeeToo button, which is where it all started from. And so that’s how you can show empathy for another person’s post. So when you click it, it says, “me too, oh, my god, the same, I feel the same.” So it’s that sense of shared, you know, shared experience, empathy, normalization of a problem. And then in the reply section, you can click on a, “Thank you that helped me.” And that actually is a measure that we can use to monitor the impact of what we’re doing. But again, we thought really carefully about what those icons, what they should look how they should feel, how can that contribute to better mental health?

Joanna Denton 15:48
That’s fascinating. I wrote down the word normalization of the problem, maybe this is a final comment on on the venture, this idea of normalizing the problem talking about the problem, you said that you you did the the app launched in 2017. Before that, there was the pilot. So that’s, you know, that’s a number of years that it’s been going, have you seen any kind of progression in high power, the users are able to articulate the problem or the emotion, if that evolved in any way, in kind of conjunction with evolving curriculums and education systems, you know, within the schools about this side of things.

Kerstyn Comley 16:31
You know, we started just before the royal foundation started their heads together campaign, and that was all about raising awareness. We still think that there is a lack of focus on solutions in the markets, you know, there’s there’s probably still more awareness raising that needs to be done. And, you know, there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health. But we’ve you know, we’ve we’ve always felt we don’t want to be just about getting, you know, raising awareness, we want to be about solving the problem. And I think certainly what we have seen over the over the years that we’ve been doing, it is a greater willingness to, to put put solutions in place. Interesting, I think schools are ahead of universities still on this, our feeling is that universities are still ticking boxes quite a lot and struggling because their counseling services are overrun, but they still don’t seem to be taking as proactive a step. And I think young people themselves are much more open to the idea that it’s okay to talk about, talk about mental health. And in some ways, we’re already now pushing into more, more detailed boundaries, things like discussion around consent, or sexual harassment or gender, you know, some of those some of the more detected, the underlying topics, rather than just thinking about mental health, generally, you know, this, there are still taboos and stigma to be broken down there as well. But in a way, that’s progression.

Joanna Denton 18:02
Yeah, and I really think it’s kind of in in providing these skills and tackling these subjects know that we can change lives, and we can change the world. I mean, I’m, I’m coming to this with my background is burned it in, I worked in tax, I had to burn it in five years. And now what I’m seeing is, you know, I’m working to break down those stigmas around burnout and mental health in the workplace. And I think a big part of the issue is that, you know, our generation, we never knew it was okay to talk about this, or ask for something more. So the work that you’re doing by giving this platform and the work that schools are doing to kind of educate around this, this is providing the final, you know, foundations for these for future generations to have the skills to, to cope with these difficult situations. And, you know, even the fact that I mean, you mentioned some of the quote, unquote, less serious aspect, of all, we’re not quite sure what music to listen to or, you know, just falling out with my best mate. Even the fact of for me, that’s almost a gateway, you know, if you’re, if you’re there, you’re asking for help, because I don’t have any music. And it might seem trivial, but you’re asking you’re, you’re reaching out to your community to ask for help on that. So the next time when it’s something more, quote, unquote, more serious, and even there, I hesitate to use the word serious, who are we to decide whether this is serious or not, but I mean, that from somebody outside looking in, we you’re giving, you’re giving a vocabulary, you’re giving a skillset, you’re giving that capacity to be very clear on identifying what their problem is. And this is going to hold them in such good stead for the future. I mean, it’s it’s phenomenal. This.

Kerstyn Comley 19:41
I mean, that’s certainly what we’re hoping and, I mean, there’s some really there’s some really interesting research to that I think are kind of relevant. The first is that, you know, the more the more that little children can be encouraged to take, take a few risks in the playground or, you know, be a little bit more independent from their parents, and yet have the support when something goes wrong to, to help them get over it, the more resilient and the stronger they are when they get older. And then there’s some some similar to an analysis research that shows that people who have experienced really significant trauma, that the most critical thing is the quality of the support that they get afterwards. Because if that’s if that’s really good, and helps and you know, high quality, actually, again, that helps, and obviously not going to over that, that immediate instance, that’s happened, but it gives them the skills and the confidence to face issues in the future. And I mean, I’m just very struck by the conversations that happen on the app, it’s so easy as an adults to forget that, that young people are going through all of these things for the first time. And if you’ve never been through something for the first time, it’s not surprising, you don’t have to deal with it. So if you’ve had some major argument with your best friend, and you’ve had an argument before with a friend that that is significant for them, or, you know, your your parents are divorcing, and you haven’t seen anybody else around, you have that same experience that, again, you know, these things are really significant to young people, we also see that a lot of people, even, you know, a young person may have a really solid group. But that doesn’t mean to say that the friends in their group have got that particular issue or experience that they’re going through. And so it’s just wonderful, we can see in the back end, that that young person in Somerset is connecting to that young person in Leeds, and they’re having a conversation about something that’s going on for them that may not be relevant to any of their immediate real world peers. And so by making those connections, in this very safe environment, it allows people to get all of that support and access they need. 16% of our users have autism, which, you know, we find is extraordinary, you know, we haven’t set out to particularly support young people with autism or beyond or people who are neurodiverse. And yet they are finding this platform to connect with other people who have a similar, you know, who are facing similar life life issues. I mean, I could give you lots of other steps like that. But you know, that that one we’re very proud of.

Joanna Denton 22:32
Mind blown. No, this is this is phenomenal. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. Dementia. I was wondering, can we have a little, can we talk a little bit about the other side of this conversation, which is your involvement within SheEO, your involvement as an entrepreneur? I mean, first of all, your journey as an entrepreneur. So what I what I heard was, your background is engineering. And I also heard very clear steps that you’ve been taking in the development of the venture. In other words, starting in 2015, those first two years of research during the pilot with the three skill – the three schools on that web based platform and then learning from there that they wanted to enter the personal space with the app and launching that in 2017. And all of the things have come since then, I suppose my question on this is if there’s someone listening, that is thinking about using technology in a new way to bring a solution out there, what would be your best advice to them for their first next steps? In terms of getting that going?

Kerstyn Comley 23:40
I think and I don’t know. Whether it’s I’m biased, because I’m an engineer, but for me, the most important thing is to understand the problem. And, you know, there’s loads of brilliance. I mean, you know, we joke, Suzi and I joke sometimes that, you know, we followed a textbook. The lean, lean startup methodology or something like that, you know, you know, we literally have gone through step by step, and we didn’t know each other before, you know, before we started the venture, we’ve met each other. We met each other at a trampolining lesson which our daughters are attending. And about three weeks into it with our set board, you know, workaholics, sitting on the side having to wait for our daughters to finish their course. She said, I’ve got this little idea. And we could I could I run it by you. So in a way, I think that was a really, it’s useful, that we didn’t know each other. And we spent those first years learning about each other and figuring out if we could work together as much as we did about the problem. And obviously, we are friends now. But I think it’s been useful that that we didn’t we didn’t have any history between us. I think that’s been very important. But yeah, for me, it is it’s very much about what understanding the problem is the problem important enough, is it strong enough? You know, there’s loads of stuff out there about product market fit and we’ve been, we’re still trying to figure it out. Now, you know, we’re still coming back to, you know, as, as the business grows, tackling each, you know, visit we’re actually trying to solve there. Because if if that’s not clear, you know, everybody can have an idea, idea, the ideas coming, you know, one a minute, but but if there isn’t, if you don’t really understand what it is you’re trying to solve, the solution won’t fit that, you know, the market won’t be interested and so on. I mean, I think we’re also, we’re quite unusual, because we, when we set out it was a, it was a purely altruistic vision that we had, and it was just about how can we make a difference to the lives of young people. And so we’re very, we have always been an impact with business, we decided not to be a charity for all sorts of reasons. But we’ve we’re definitely led business. But it’s meant that we’ve had to figure out the revenue generation side later, quite unusual. And I think lots of people are being driven by that, because that doesn’t fit in standard textbook model for an entrepreneur building a business. But, you know, in our case, it was the thing that was needed for the problem. And if we just started focusing on revenue from the outset, we wouldn’t have built a solution to the mental health crisis we’d have would have built some kind of product that, you know, can be sold and made money with that with that, but that wouldn’t have satisfied the, you know, the, the problem that we’re with, we’re trying to tackle, which is youth mental health.

Joanna Denton 26:31
I think that’s a very important point. I’m not in tech, however, I have a perception around it that very often, It’s almost the technology that comes first and then just by the we’re making an app on oh, by the way, it’s almost like the objective, the whole thing is the app rather than what it is that they’re doing. So I think thank you for that, that very sound advice, start with the problem, understand the problem, and then the solution will come from it. Even if the solution is not what you think that it quote on quote, should be. Because when you started with a web based and then went onto an app, so thank thank you for that. And tell me a little bit about your your experience within the SheEO community about becoming a venture, and how that went about?

Kerstyn Comley 27:14
Well, I mean, it’s been it’s been phenomenal, actually, and, and slightly surprised, me, oh, I was so skeptical. We do these things. And then then it’s a no, it’s brilliant. And so we met an Activator. On another program, she was our kind of mental coach, I guess, on this other program. And she she recommended us that we take a look at this SheEO SheEO community. And I think what what we’re finding is is particularly found great is that we’ve done we’ve done quite a few accelerator programs when we were younger, and they were all geared to our startup. And they, some of them were incredibly valuable and really helped to drive the business. But in this sort of scale up phase that we’re in there is there does seem to be less support around and, and so actually to have found SheEO. And to beginning, you know, we get coaching once a fortnight to now be connected with a small, the cohort, the UK cohort for this year, I have a feeling that relationship will just grow and grow as well with our organizations. And it’s really good because we are facing new challenges, we’ve just completed a funding round that has been more difficult than perhaps any of the others previously, you know, there are new expectations being made of us personally, as well as for the organization. And you know, we are being scrutinized in different ways as well. And, you know, we’re having to learn how to how to manage all of that. And so to have this community that we can actually turn to who can who can understand that. I think it’s really important. The other thing, you know, I’ve worked in the engineering world all my career, I, you know, I’ve been very fortunate that I have observed a little bit of sexism, but I’ve never really experienced any and I until, until with this job, I think I have never, I’ve always been in the absolute majority any role I’ve had, it’s either been I’ve been the only women or you know, there’s maybe been one other. And then I’ve never, I’ve never had a problem with it. But it has been interesting moving into the leadership role with the company that for the very first time, I am aware that there is a difference. And it’s not always necessarily sexism. It’s just that because historically, businesses tend to be run by men, there tend to have been a way of doing things that are perhaps different to the way that women might do things. And yeah, that’s just been quite an interesting observation. And so what’s lovely with the SheEO community, is this community of phenomenally successful, confident, articulate women and who, who are able to say, well, actually, that the way you’re doing is fine, you know, you know, and that’s really that’s really back to that normalization. Yeah, learning, learning from learning from, you know, from peers, it’s very powerful.

Joanna Denton 30:05
So talking of the community, do you have a particular ask for the SheEO community at the moment?

Kerstyn Comley 30:14
Okay, can I be cheeky, I’d have two? Well it is a general one to anybody, if they are connected to a school connected to a sixth form, or even a university, let them know, let that school at that six will know about me to be available free to use by whoever wants to use it. And we have these sort of starter packs that we can ship out to schools who want to go in alone, and you know, we’ve got whole packages of support and things that they can buy into. But if they just want to do it themselves, they just want to give the young people access to MeeToo, you know, we’d love people to spread the word. So that’s one ask. The other more specific ask is that apt kind of management board level, we would like to find somebody who maybe an hour a month could give us a bit more financial support. So really looking at governance and strategic thinking on the finance side. So somebody who might have worked as a financial director, or CFO, especially somebody who’s worked with, with companies of our kind of size, because we’re finding that that that is quite, you know, is quite specialist people from from a big from a strong corporate background, they have a certain way of doing things don’t necessarily always always apply to it to a small business.

Joanna Denton 31:29
Okay, so connections with schools or universities to open the door and be able to send information in to be able to use the app for free. And then financial advice and expertise, particularly on governance and strategic thinking to be able to help you think slightly differently and give you some support either an hour a month, is that is that right?

Kerstyn Comley 31:49
Yeah, I’m thinking like a sort of a mentor. It might not even be an hour.

Joanna Denton 31:52
Yeah, fantastic. Okay. Well, my my final question, then, is the venture the app, it’s all about the mental health of young folk. My final question to you is, how do you manage your mental health? How do you keep any kind of balance in your life as you are fixing the world’s problems around mental health? And particularly for children? What are your go-to things for your protecting your own mental health?

Kerstyn Comley 32:22
Yeah, for me personally, so before, before founding MeToo I co-founded a new school, a secondary school, and I, you know, I mean, I often talk about that as being my baby, and it’s 10 years old now. And, you know, it’s definitely in that, you know, young child phase and I, I let myself become totally absorbed by that project. And, and I’m not, you know, looking back on it, I’m not sure that was particularly healthy. And I was very aware of that, when I started MeeToo, that, although, you know, my husband would tell me, I don’t ever think about anything else. But I am more conscious that there has to, there has to be a bit of a separation. You know, it’s my, it is my vocation, and it is my job. But at the same time, that passage, I think it’s so important to have time off. And I love this story. I don’t know if it’s true or not. But I read this thing that Bill Gates every year when he was running, Microsoft, would take two weeks where he would go into a cabin and be totally disconnected from everybody. And that would allow him to clear his mind and come back with a whole set of fresh thinking. And I’m, I’m very aware of the danger of becoming too absorbed. And that actually, not just not just being detrimental to mental health, but also, in fact, being detrimental to your ability to do a job well. And so so I’m very conscious of that. I mean, obviously, I am still working for tokenistic long hours, and, you know, weekends and stuff. But I definitely try and keep every Sunday completely free. Most of Saturdays, we tend to go off into the countryside, my husband and I and you know camping or whatever. But we have in these discussions with the team as well. And just trying to make sure that people understand that the need to, to manage time and to have time off, I think it’s really important because otherwise it can just become completely overwhelming.

Joanna Denton 34:16
Very solid and great advice to those people listening, keep time for yourself. We can’t do the work that we’re doing if we’re running on empty ourselves. So brilliant.

Kerstyn Comley 34:27
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I sort of think of it almost like a messy desk. You know, if you’ve put too much into your brain, it’s a bit like having too much on your desk and you can’t see anything and every now and then you just have to clear everything off. And I sort of I feel it’s very similar that that needs to happen regularly, once a week once a fortnight in order for you to be able to work at your best and not to not to damage your own mental health.

Joanna Denton 34:51
Well, thank you so much. And thank you so much, Kerstyn, for for being here today, to talk to us about MeeToo, normalizing the problem. I’m getting kids to talk about it so that they build these skills and they help each other on this, they can show that empathy and they can be impacted like that. I’m taking away as well, that amazing advice in terms of, if you wanted to start a new venture, start with the problem, not the solution. Start with the problem. And the solution works itself out around that. Those asks that you gave around connections with university and schools and the financial expertise, mentoring as well. I’m sure there going to be people in the community that will be able to help you on that. So thank you very much, and I will end with a good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening, wherever you are, wherever you are listening to this. You’ve been listening to the SheEO.World podcast, and we’ll see you next time. Thank you.

Vicki Saunders 35:47
Thank you for listening to the SheEO dot world podcast. Like, comment, subscribe and share this podcast with your friends. We invite you to join a global community of radically generous women and non binary folks at SheEO dot world

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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