SDG 3. Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being of all children at all ages is essential to sustainable development. All children around the world should have access to the best healthcare possible, safe water to drink, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, as well as information to help them stay healthy.
In Sweden, one in four youth between the ages of 16 and 24 suffer from mental illness such as depression or anxiety. However, only half of those seek the help they need to get better, and those who do seek help are often deemed not sick enough to receive the help they so desperately need. According to a report from the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF),* youth who are struggling with mental illness feel that one of the key things they need in order to take steps towards feeling better is someone who listens to them. Being brushed off or not taken seriously — or the fear of it — stops many from seeking further support, and risks leading to even more serious mental illness.
In order to address this problem, social entrepreneur Annso Blixt started Tilia, an organization that provides youth with compassionate listening support through online chat and offline meeting spaces. Tilia also give lectures to ensure that youth know who to turn to if they need help as well as trainings for adults to better understand youths’ needs.
*När livet känns fel (MUCF, 2015)
According to the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF),* when youth feel listened to it is more likely that they will seek further support to address their mental illness. Tilia asked a sample of 35 youth supported through their online chat (selected from a total of 130) about the extent to which they feel listened to.
One of the many children that Tilia supported is Amanda, who shares her story: “Ever since childhood, I wanted to be well-liked and I wanted to be the best in everything I did. I pushed myself at a pace my body did not manage, which resulted in a collapse in my senior year in high school. It was concluded that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me, except that I was exhausted. In 2013, I entered the university and once again I found myself in a negative cycle with high expectations for myself. I felt lost and this led to a destructive mood and anxiety. I came in contact with Tilia in 2015 and applied for their summer camp.
I was nervous to go, but as soon as I stepped into the camp I immediately realized: Here I will be accepted just for who I am. The warm welcome I received from the leaders was something I had never felt before!
“Tilia’s faith in me helped me
believe in myself again.” — Amanda
After the week at Tilia’s summer camp, I returned home with new energy and a feeling that I needed a change. I decided that student life was not good for me and chose to quit university. I was close to giving up hope many times, but Tilia was there and motivated me to continue fighting. Tilia’s faith in me helped me believe in myself again. Today I feel balanced and stable and enjoy every minute of life.”
Annso reflects on her and Tilia’s starting point coming into the incubator: “Reach for Change came into my and Tilia’s life exactly when I needed it. Right then we were in a position where we were wondering how we would have the strength to carry on. We were doing many different activities to help youth, but did not have the resources and organizational infrastructure to do them effectively and sustainably. We were at risk of losing quality, and the team was being worn out. After initial coaching conversations with Reach for Change we started to ‘rewind the tape,’ we shut down our local offices and instead focused on strengthening our core team in the headquarters.”
End of 2017, Reach for Change supported Tilia with a leadership and team-building training. Annso felt that it was
a turning point: “The training really cast a light on some of my behavioral patterns that have stood in the way of building the team in the best way. After the training I gained a whole new courage when it came to recruiting and had a clear image of what the core team needed. I knew how to encourage my employees but also how to tackle difficult conversations in a way that I had not before.”
At the end of 2018, Annso thinks that Tilia is in a healthier place: “It really feels like we are now a strong organization with a solid core team. This is what made us decide — after many discussions within the team and with our board — to take the plunge and launch five new local offices during fall and winter. Our youth want a face-to-face space where they can meet with us and talk to us, and we want to be there for them. Basically, we are back where we started but from a much stronger standpoint.”
Meeting all 12 criteria means that the entrepreneur achieves an investment readiness score of 100. Among the entrepreneurs selected to the 2018 incubator, the average score was 79 out of 100, which prompted our program team to take measures to bring the score closer to 100. We are happy to see that, among those selected to the 2019 incubator, the average score increased from 79 to 89."
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