Jason Fox On The App Set To Change Mental Health Management
MENTOR360 is a new app which offers some stunning features to help people with mental health and all round well-being. We spoke to its creator, Bertie, and his pal and contributor, Foxy, to find out more.
“Can I stay at your house tomorrow night?” is the first thing Jason Fox says on the Zoom call. This is not to The Book of Man but to Bertie who is also on the call and is not just a man clearly used to housing stray Foxes but also the main force behind MENTOR360, the app the pair of them have developed with an extended team of experts, which is set to change the game for mental health management. Bertie and Foxy served together in the elite military, where, as time went on and mental health problems raised its head within Bertie’s circles, not least with regards Foxy himself, and the idea for an app to help people find help emerged from these situations. After many years, and a hell of a lot of development work and research, the app is finally hitting the market and it’s quite something. MENTOR360 aims to encourage self awareness about people’s routines and encourage ‘habit modification’, which as their team of famous faces and qualified experts show, can make huge differences to a person’s well-being – the goal is to get people to develop their own formulas by learning from the formulas of their mentors. But the app is also much broader than that, it exists as a hub for great mental health content, a sign-poster for other organisations and crisis centres, and is the generally the type of thing you can spend a lot of time on; quality time, that is (unusual for an app).
Here’s Bertie and Foxy to tell us more…
Can you just explain the app and where the idea came from?
Bertie: The background is that after 26 years in the military, you see all sorts of stuff. In my early days there, mental health was a bit of a taboo, no one really spoke about it, and everyone dismissed it. Foxy left the military, and then came back and briefed on a ‘TRiM’ course, which is basically a trauma course. And I sat in there in this course, hearing Foxy explain those areas for the first time – I considered myself one of his best mates, and I realised that I wasn’t a mate at all. I had no idea what he was going through. So in my military career, that was a tipping point to think there’s more to this than meets the eye, and we really need to look after our people. So that was number one.
Number two was my father died by suicide when I was 15. He died in the February, and every Christmas it resonates with me because it was family time.
And then I guess during my last two key positions in the military, we had a few mental health issues – some were life problems which could have been dealt with and some were more serious. But the point was, no one was coming forward, probably because of the mentality we had within the organisation, because it’s Alpha-led. People want to do the job that they signed up for, they don’t want to drop out the system to get help. I have lost veteran friends and a work colleague to suicide which I found heart wrenching.
So I had the idea of an app ages ago: could we develop something which allows someone to become more self-aware? And get to an actual outcome quicker than they would have done normally? We’re not saying this app is the perfect solution, but it might spark some interest in your mental well-being, and through that discovery, you might come to a conclusion a lot quicker than you would have done by yourself. That might be a conclusion of needing to seek some professional help or just make a lifestyle change. That is what we wanted to achieve with Mentor 360: it’s a complete lifestyle tool, which would encourage people to discover self awareness and then come up with an outcome.
So it’s trying to provide a gateway for people into lots of different experiences that will work best for them?
Bertie: 100%. In its basic form, it’s a habit modification tool. We’ve had some great writers who have come up with formulas, which contain habits for people to check off a list and hopefully over time they’ll work out what works for them in order to then get to where they want to go.
And then on the back of that you’ve got a self-awareness diary which allows you to put in your thoughts and assess where you are. The biggest bet on that, from my perspective, is a monthly tracker, which you fill in – you might see areas which you’re not working on, and it’ll give you suggestions.
And then we’ve got the thing called The Hub, which is basically a collection of good content on everything from mental health to nutrition, to meditation to sleep. I’m particularly proud of the crisis area – anyone who’s really struggling, can go in there. We say if you desperately need help you should be ringing 999, but we’ve also got link to charities which have hotlines where you can get hold of someone. Alex, who is our clinical psychologist, is also within that section.
How did you get involved in it Foxy?
Foxy: The planets aligned really – ultimately, I have always wanted to be a part of something that means something to me and when Bertie started to talk about this, I thought it sounded awesome. And if someone’s going to pull it off and deliver something at the highest calibre then it will be Bertie. I think it will be something that definitely resonates with a large percentage of people that have the opportunity to see it. And everyone will take something from it, that is a given. What he’s put together is probably the most concise, technical, interactive app for mental health management, that there is.
This has been a work in progress for years, but the knowledge and technical capability means we weren’t able to do something like this until now.
Bertie: I think it’s probably worth mentioning that there is an altruistic side to this – 40% of the app is completely free. And what we’ve done with that is ensure that 40% will help anyone as long as they have a phone, it will give them some really good solid advice and support.
The other 60% is premium, but is at the lowest rate we can do it on our protected figures, to be non-profit.
Foxy: Ultimately that 40% will deliver, hopefully, life changing advice and then obviously, the other bit needs to be there for a more in-depth version.
Can you tell us a bit more about some of this stuff you do on it, Foxy?
Foxy: Yeah, so he basically hounds me for most of my existence to do stuff for it. Me and all the people on the app are quite open about certain things we’ve been through and we talk through works for us, what our formulas are, what are the routines that keep us on the straight and narrow. I’m offering advice and saying, you don’t have to do everything I say, but maybe take a few bits away. And then the other people will add their pieces. And then hopefully, people can look through those and decide what they’re going to add to their formula and see how it goes. Hopefully, as the app becomes popular and advances then we’ll be able to add to the people that get involved.
Bertie: Foxy has also added his own life experiences into the crisis area, and if his viewpoint just resonates with one person and makes a difference, then it is an absolute success. Foxy has been very, very open and very generous in his content. And that’s what the apps trying to try and achieve – Foxy and our experts giving good, sound advice.
Foxy: The other thing is the content creators or writers that Bernie’s got involved…I mean, to get in a room with most of those people would cost thousands. Okay, you’re not sitting in a room with them, but it’s close just because of the amount of time and effort that he and those people have taken to sit down and meticulously go through what the content looks like, what it says, what it sounds like. He feeds back to me about the meetings they’ve had, which involves days in Airbnb’s cooking food and debating it all – the time and effort that has gone into this is proper. This is something I’m really proud to have my name on. Alex, who’s the clinical psychologist for the app, she was my clinical psychologist who was featured in the book Battle Scars who rescued my ass. So yeah, it’s the coming together of some serious brains. Mine not included.
The routines are very valuable – when you’re going through a difficult period you’re kind of rootless, adrift, and you haven’t really got much to cling on to, you don’t really know what you’re doing. And that’s a quite a frightening time.
Foxy: The other thing is nowadays, to add to what you just said, if you think about it, phones are the go-to for everything for everyone. If you’re feeling down, you’ll go on it and you’ll WhatsApp someone or you’ll look at the news and make yourself feel even more down. We had a debate in the beginning, that a lot of the problems with people’s mental health is due to phones – not all of it, but it plays a part. But instead of trying to get people off this because that ain’t gonna happen – these things are here to stay and they’re going to get more advanced – why don’t you, to coin a military phrase, try and dominate part of the battle space. If the phone is the battle space, have something on there that, say, young people can go to after being on Instagram and being upset because of a comment. Lurking on the corner is something called Mentor 360 and they know that could help them out of a dark place.
What are your ambitions with it?
Bertie: We’ve got a development plan for the app itself, so it becomes a lot more personalised. And clearly more content with more influencers and just a more refined, better refinement of it. Separately to that, the aspiration is to take the model and flip it to provide a platform for schoolchildren, ages 11 to 17. That will be using the content from the education department, the mental health and well-being syllabus, and putting that into formulas, working alongside the Department of Education in order to get it right and then putting influencers in there because children do look up to them – and try and promote a healthy way of living within that. And then I guess, to start looking at how we can provide face to face support as well.
The aspiration’s big, what we need to do is just get momentum behind it initially
One final thing: how have you both changed through the years compared to when you first met to now?
Foxy: We’ve definitely grown up in some aspects and in others we’ve become more childish.
Bertie: We’re both probably aware of things around us a lot more, I would say. But I think when we meet up, it’s still the same. I annoy him. I try and give him a shit. He tries and give me shit, but it’s normally pretty poor. No, I think we’ve both got a greater understanding of who each other is now than we did probably a few years ago because everything was about who could do stuff quicker, faster, stronger. That was the lifestyle really, and I think now we’re probably more aligned with each other’s emotions. Without a shadow of a doubt. But I think the friendships still rotates around a good bit of banter.
Foxy: I think we were very good at giving shit though. I’d put us on the pedestal as probably the best blokes at giving shit anywhere on the planet.
Bertie: It came at cost, though. We gave some to people I ended up on duties with later on in my career. Karma bites you in the ass at some point.
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