A beginning is a very delicate time. This is my version of how Thrive started and why.
I trained in the NHS and worked as a consultant there. During my first NHS job I created a specialist clinic for people aged 40 and over with dementia - this is called young onset dementia and it as rare as it is devastating. I got free time from a neurologist, a nurse and a radiologist. In the end it did not happen as the Trust could not spare the consultation rooms or create the clinic in their computer system. I tried 3 times and every time I got close to success the person I was dealing with left the post so I had to start from scratch.
I left and joined what today is one of the largest independent mental health providers in the country, but back then was a small company. I joined is because of the opportunity to design services and see them come to reality. It had 7 hospitals when I joined and when I left it had 70 care facilities. I was medical director there and my co-founder Russell Green was the associate medical director. Adam Huxley, my psychologist co-founder was the clinical director.
We had jointly created services that helped around 1,200 people. Compared to the population of the UK that was simply not enough. One in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Most of these are very treatable particularly when they first start. None of the traditional services would ever quite scale to help all that need it, you simply cannot train and supervise enough therapists to cope. Services are also designed for my convenience, not for the convenience of the person who comes to see me as it should be. People have to take time off work to see me in my office at my appointed time going through my process. Compare that with say Amazon or Uber.
We realised we needed to do something that could help the millions that are affected, not just in the UK but around the world. We also wanted to reach those people who never seek help and to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions. That is why we quit to found Thrive.
I remember thinking that even in outpatients if I am very hard-working I can only see around 400 new people per year. That is around 16,000 people for my whole career. We already have 26,000 users of our apps and services.
We realised that there were many psychological treatment techniques that could be learned by the people with the condition. There was evidence that people could use these techniques on themselves or that a carer could enable them to do it. We found out that if people completed the training they would get the benefits, but most people didn't. We looked at education and their experience using games to get young and old to learn different skills and we thought we could do the same. We also realised that none of us knew anything about games.
Armed with that insight we looked for a games developer and after 6 months of disappointment after disappointment found Rich, who had had lots of success developing mainstream games such as Tomb Raider. He was very different from others we had seen as—while he loved making games for entertainment—he knew that they could be used for so much more. Thanks to him we have found many ways in which techniques used in games can help people engage more and better with our therapeutic techniques.
That is how the whole idea started. We wanted to bring digital tools to all that need it to prevent and treat mental health conditions. We wanted to empower people to take control and to work towards prevention or recovery in their own terms at their own pace without having to go through hoops. We will continue to work to make prevention and therapy more accessible, affordable and appealing. I am the King of Corny so I am not ashamed to say that my goal is to empower everybody to Thrive and be the best they can be.