Blethr is a significant step forward in Brothers in Arms' mission to reduce male suicide. By merging innovative AI techniques with psychological concepts, Blethr offers a unique approach to improving men's mental well-being.
Brothers in Arms and the Pioneering Concept of Blethr: A Game Changer for Men's Mental Wellbeing
Blethr is a 'Listeningbot' designed specifically with men in mind, we aim to bridge, not replace the gap left by traditional therapy options which may not resonate with all males or because of lack of access due to long waiting times or cutbacks in funding.
Blethr is a safe space where you can talk freely and openly about what's on your mind without fear of being judged or told what you should do
As a curious technology, it seeks to understand and help through questions rather than accessing a simple library of answers
People may want to describe Blethr as a ChatBot, we prefer AI Conversationer, or if you prefer a 'Listeningbot'
Brothers in Arms, Scotland's dedicated charity for men's mental health, has always strived to break down barriers and initiate conversations around mental wellbeing. Recognizing the increasing need for a safe, nonjudgmental space where males can express themselves freely, but are also free to use, they've invested in a groundbreaking initiative: Blethr.
A New Approach to Men’s Mental Health
Blethr is an innovative platform that uses Conversational AI technology combined with principles of psychology to create a user-friendly conversation and listening space. Unlike conventional methods that often pressure individuals into sharing their feelings without providing an appropriate environment or listener, Blethr asks: "What if we gave men a safe space where they could talk freely without fear of judgment?"
Why Invest in Blethr?
The decision by Brothers in Arms to support this project is rooted not only in the acknowledgement of the rising prevalence of poor mental health among men but also in recognition of the scarcity of accessible resources. The charity understands that too many reactive solutions focus on symptomatic relief rather than addressing root causes.
The Concept Behind Blethr
Blether is driven by two key psychological concepts: "What Happens Inside Happens Outside: A Human Sense-Making Framework" and "Human Nature for Human Beings: A Human Sense-Making Process," research carried out and published by psychologist Ian McLaren Wallace who with developer Neil Fogarty combined these concepts with advanced AI technology to offer support based on individual needs - making each interaction personalized and effective, and over the last three years worked with Dan Proverbs, founder of BIA to help them develop a framework where the concept would be applicable to men.
User-centred Therapy & Clean Language
Incorporating user-centered therapy or person-centered therapy principles allows users to take control over their therapeutic journey. By utilizing Clean Language, a recognized therapeutic approach, Blethr encourages users to express themselves freely without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.
Confidentiality and Availability
One of the unique points of Blethr is its availability around the clock. This AI-driven platform is available 24/7, providing flexibility that traditional therapy often lacks. Confidentiality is also crucial; all conversations are kept secure and private, enabling users to open up without apprehension.
The Road Ahead
Blethr's potential for scalability is vast. Though its journey begins in Scotland, the vision extends well beyond borders. Brothers in Arms is currently fundraising for the next updates to the Blethr platform, including a front-end login for users to each have their own individual space - and a data dashboard that uses anonymized data for analytics and insights that can be used toward research on reducing the high rate of male suicide, something that is now a global issue.
The investment by Brothers in Arms into Blethr reflects their commitment to not only acknowledging but actively addressing men's mental health issues with innovative solutions. By providing men with a safe space where they can talk freely about their feelings without fear of judgment or backlash, Brothers in Arms continues to lead by example in championing men's mental health.
For many men, a trip to the barbershop represents more than just a routine grooming necessity. It's a space of comfort, camaraderie, and at times, candid conversations. Recognizing the unique potential of this setting is at the heart of an innovative initiative - The Barber Project.
The project, born from a collaborative effort between Brothers in Arms charity, Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU), and Glasgow-based barber shop Rebel Rebel, is an attempt to harness the power of these intimate exchanges in Barbershops and Salons for positive mental health outcomes.
The premise behind this project is simple yet profound: equip barbers with skills and knowledge that enable them to foster conversations about mental health with their male clientele. By doing so, it aims to break down barriers that often prevent men from opening up about their struggles.
Studies have shown that men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues due largely to societal expectations and stigmas surrounding masculinity. The stark reality associated with this reluctance has devastating consequences: suicide rates among men are alarmingly high across many nations.
A Fresh Approach
The Barber Project seeks to change this narrative by training barbers on how they can encourage their customers into starting dialogues about their emotional wellbeing. Following initial success at Rebel Rebel's salon earlier this year where 12 local Barbers were trained; Glasgow Clyde College has now incorporated these workshops into its hairstyling curriculum.
Making A Difference
The workshop provides participants not only with tools for facilitating sensitive discussions but also guidance on how they can respond when someone discloses experiences related to mental health or suicide. It doesn't aim for them to become therapists; rather it arms them with the empathy and understanding to act as supportive listeners.
Encouragingly, the early feedback from these training sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. Students have reported feeling more confident in handling such conversations, and importantly, they are motivated to help.
Reaching Out By Reaching In
This project represents a shift in how we think about mental health outreach towards men. Rather than waiting for individuals to reach out for help - often a significant barrier - it's about reaching in proactively. It acknowledges the need for everyone to play their part in supporting each other's mental health.
Through its approach, The Barber Project is not just providing haircuts but potentially life-saving conversations. It's a testament to what can be achieved when we look beyond traditional methods of addressing mental health and instead focus on strategies embedded within communities themselves.
The next steps for The Barber Project involve reaching other professionals who have regular contact with men such as personal trainers, sports coaches and those within the corporate workforce This expansion aims to further increase the number of people skilled at initiating these critical discussions around male mental health issues.
In its essence, The Barber Project is an embodiment of empathy at work – a reminder that sometimes all it takes is one conversation to make a difference.
Matt Smith, an active member of the 'Keep in Touch' touch rugby team, is taking a significant leap beyond the rugby pitch to fundraise for Brothers in Arms (BIA), a charity committed to combating male suicide.
Here's his inspiring story.
'Keep in Touch' is more than just a touch rugby team – it's a closely-knit community of up to 100 players from diverse backgrounds. They meet every week throughout the year for games that not only keep them physically fit but also nurture their mental well-being. The sense of camaraderie among the group has been particularly impactful during challenging times, such as when they tragically lost one of their own members to suicide. However, this loss has sparked action. Smith and his team have rallied together, turning personal grief into collective resilience.
On December 8th, they are organizing an 'old man’s touch extravaganza.' This event will take place at Scotstoun Stadium before the Glasgow Warriors versus Northhampton Saints game and will conclude with a playoff final at halftime. The objective? To raise awareness about male suicide and generate funds for Brothers in Arms – all while enjoying some friendly competition on the rugby field.
"This event is for everyone who has felt the sting of loss," says Smith "We're coming together as friends to remember those we've lost and take proactive steps towards preventing further tragedies."
The chosen cause – Brothers in Arms – holds particular significance for 'Keep In Touch.' The charity utilizes technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to create innovative mental health support tools like #Blethr - an app designed to intervene ahead of any crisis.
"For every death due to suicide," Matthew says soberly "at least 100 family members and friends bear that impact."
With the support of Glasgow Warriors and various sponsors, 'Keep in Touch' is hopeful their event will make a difference. They are not only playing for their fallen friend but for all men grappling with mental health issues, demonstrating that community, conversation, and proactive action can be powerful tools against despair.
Those wishing to contribute to Matt's fundraising efforts can do so through the JustGiving link here. It's a secure platform that ensures your donation goes directly to the charity, making it an efficient way of supporting this worthy cause.
"We're with those hurting today and tomorrow," Matt states finally. A simple sentence that encapsulates the spirit of 'Keep in Touch,' reflecting their commitment to standing by one another through triumphs on the rugby pitch and challenges off it.