Company of the Month: Stigma Statistics
Matthew Steans, a young entrepreneurial corporate treasury consultant, has pivoted his experience using data to understand the world, to a real impact health technology application. Having struggled himself with depression, and after witnessing a suicide and losing a friend to suicide, Steans began a journey examining how available real time data could be used to create a methodology to both predict and prevent suicide. The result is Stigma Statistics, a social venture enabling suicide prevention through data and technology.
At the end of last year, the chancellor announced 1.3 million for suicide data and Stigma itself was involved in the proposal to support that move.
“In the UK last year there were 6,524 registered. At a very conservative guess there are 30 times more attempts each year, and we are focused on that preventative space. From April onwards Local Authorities will now have the funding to purchase this technology.”
This sort of health tech is certainly niche within a niche. In terms of monitoring technology Stigma Statistics is the only company doing this, although for real time surveillance there is competition with QES. But no other company is bringing everything together and working with the services in this way.
“I was reading about an NGO in the states called Cures Violence founded by Dr Gary Slutkins, which was applying data methodology to gun violence. I wanted to see if we could use the same methodology in suicide prevention, and that led me down a real data rabbit hole. It takes a minimum of 9 months for a coroner to come to a suicide verdict post death – and even 2-4 years in some other jurisdictions. I saw that governments were looking for a solution to this,” explains Matthew.
Real time surveillance works so that if the coroner allows the information to be shared pre conclusion, this can be shared early on by police with local authorities, public health and mental health services. This means better more timely support for the bereaved as well as valuable information for a prevention strategy. Stigma’s platform is designed to be one source of truth.
Stigma’s Suicide Tracking, Analysis & Reporting (‘STAR’) platform allows for the collation, sharing, analysis and reporting on suicide information. This innovative surveillance tools allow users to identify deaths related to suicide faster, helping both bereaving families and prevention efforts.
The company is now focusing on pillars:
- Evidence backed information through case studies and research
- Awareness – promoting and educating on the benefits of using data and technology for suicide prevention
- People Safeguarding Analytics (PSA) -which is the real time suicide surveilance and behavioural monitoring technology
- Understanding – how the technology can link all these things together and drive tangible prevention activity and share those learnings with other services and people to ultimately prevent loss of life.
The company completed a three-month pilot in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to test the operational aspects of the platform with the services in a local suicide prevention group made up of local councils and charities. All users reported better service provision from use
There wasn’t enough suicide incidents (thankfully) in the pilot scheme to provide scientific evidence, however all services that used the platform said it led to better service profession.
When you’re moving into new tech you need to be transparent and open from the outset asserts Steans. The company is currently looking for Trustees for an independent ethics data committee.
“In terms of information governance, we’ve built the process infrastructure in at the start – data sharing agreements, data impact assessments, providing the regulatory guidelines and what all the different services need to be thinking about from the outset. In terms of engaging with our customers it’s really an information piece at the beginning rather than a sales pitch.”
Start up support
“The development phase is really about having the right people around you to give you constructive feedback and help find the right solutions to support and enable you,” explains Matthew.
The platform was originally built through Hackathons and the company has maintained the network of people from those early days around it. Steans also recently brought on a new non-executive director, Pete Trainor, who’s awareness and his networks has really helped. The company took part in the Digital Health London launchpad programme, which led it on to the Cambridge Social Ventures incubator, and Stigma received valuable support from MedCity in finetuning its business plan.
“We first attempted a funding round last summer but quickly realised we weren’t fully ready. At that stage we had just completed the pilot phase – I thought once we had that and the proof of concept and our first client, we would be good to go. But ultimately it became clear that we that didn’t have a sustainable business model. You can have the best intentions to try and save the world but ultimately you have to make that sustainable. The support from MedCity helped me understand that we had to do something else, which moved me forward to the contract with the beacons.”
Stigma’s next step is to move into behavioural monitoring technology, and the company is about to sign an exclusive agreement with a leading IoT Hardware Provider. This presents a real opportunity to provide police and local services with tangible intelligence around suicide event, information Steans hopes will save lives through understanding attempts and the deaths.
“We want to be the world’s first internet of things device for suicide prevention. We can put these devices on high risk locations and monitor for suicidal behaviour. Taking that one step further we are actually going to develop telematic AI pattern matching technology, whereby if anyone starts to show at risk behaviour, we can alert services and have them intervene. This is the part that is really exciting as we can actually save lives using this technology. Nothing currently exists for this.”
The technology will focus on three areas. The first is bridges, which form 80% of high-risk locations in Europe, followed by construction sites, where there are a staggering two deaths of construction workers by suicide in the UK every day. And finally car parking buildings, where Steans himself witnessed a suicide. A 2016 International Parking Mobility Institute Study showed that 51% of members had experienced a suicide at their facility.
With the business model now firmly nailed down, Stigma is ready to go out for a full £150,000 SEIS round. The company still needs the right introductions to socially minded investors who also understand the space, and Matthew is aware suicide prevention isn’t necessarily for everyone. But the outlook is positive, and not even the pandemic is stalling progression plans.
“Over the last year we’ve found the pandemic to be both a help and a hindrance. People are more interested in data than ever, but equally public health staff are over stretched, and government bodies don’t talk to each other. Our work around having one source of truth in suicide prevention is addressing this need for better connectivity, reflecting in the funding that’s being allocated to the space. I’m really excited about the opportunity to save lives and where we are heading.