WP&UP is striving to bring a light to the complex world of mental health within the WordPress community. As a registered charity and nonprofit organization, WP&UP seeks to support and promote positive mental health within the WordPress community by bringing awareness to the connection between mental health and isolation. WP&UP encourages people to #pressforward by providing holistic support through counseling services, community support and 1:1 help with trained professionals.
Bluehost sat down with WP&UP founder Dan Maby to discuss the importance of mental health in the WordPress community, seeking mental health assistance, and the future of WP&UP.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Dan, we’re so excited to hear more about your organization. What is WP&UP and how did you get started?
“WP&Up is a registered nonprofit and our mission is to promote mental health in the WordPress community. Within the community, the work that we do is often done by individuals who don’t have the opportunity to interact with other people on a regular basis. That isolation can be particularly challenging from a mental health perspective. In May 2017, we ran a survey to gather more insight on the state of mental health within the community. We had over 1200 submissions where 56% cited that they worked alone and then 47% stated that their work environment gave them anxiety.”
Wow, you had a very large response to help gain insight into the community. Were there any survey results that concerned you?
“The shocking stat was that 8% confirmed that they have had suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months. Creating an organization that supports the mental health of a community is no easy feat. Our ultimate goal is to create services that support the unique needs of any person coming to us for assistance. Before we ever registered as a nonprofit, we spent 12 months creating discussion around mental health that informed the programs and services we wanted to provide.
We released a video in 2017 that was supposed to spark a conversation about mental health. It actually caused an explosion of people saying “I need help,” and “We need to talk.” We understood the sense of urgency and quickly started working to do something even as a non registered entity. It began by delivering companionship and creating a system for people to have those conversations. We offered around 3.5 thousand hours of support in those first 12 months all fully unfunded.”
It speaks volumes that you understood the sense of urgency and took immediate action to help the community, how would you describe the unique work environment of community members?
“What makes the need for these services imperative for the WordPress community is because if you are a lone worker, you don’t have the chance to have daily interaction. Think about an office environment, if you are sitting opposite from someone in a cube you will have been verbalizing something during your 8-hour workday. Imagine spending your entire workweek in silence and isolation, that’s a common issue that many people within the community experience.”
It’s definitely a stark contrast between working alone and working in an environment where you get human interaction. When did you start receiving support to grow your services?
“The initial step to establishing our organization began in August 2018 when we registered as a charity. Our first sponsors were Green Geeks and wpmudev who enabled us to start incorporating professional services and support on our website. A large aspect of our conversation in the social space concerns sponsorships and social responsibility. Instead of putting the pressure on one company to fund this, we want to talk collectively.”
How would you describe your ideal sponsor for WP&UP?
“Our ideal sponsor is any company within our WordPress ecosystem. We need to share the social responsibility of mental health. We have one sponsorship package and that is to ensure we are keeping things simple for our organization because are restrictive in terms of our finances at this stage and we need to progress rapidly. The opportunity for companies and people to donate can be a difficult one in the charity space because from a tax perspective you want to receive donations, but of course, we want to work and create partnerships. It’s not only about sponsorship, but it’s also about developing a relationship with that company.”
We couldn’t agree more, a working relationship that reflects mutual ideals and values is crucial for longevity and success in business. What is the cost of sponsorship?
“An annual sponsorship would cost £75,000 ( $96,000) which is our top-level sponsorship package. This level offers exposure across all our activities, including every live event (we’ve had over 6,500 attendees to-date), the #PressForward Podcast, our mentorship program, training material, support program, and many other benefits. We’ve also been working on additional levels, to enable more companies from the community to take part. Our community-level sponsorship plans are about to be released.”
That sounds awesome, we can’t wait to see the expansion of WP&UP. WP&UP is currently based in London, what are your future plans for expansion?
“I currently organize WP&UP events at wplndn,wpsuffolk, wpessex, and wpliverpool and plan to expand to four more cities in the UK. These events run similar to WordPress meetups, except they focus on professional development and mental health. We’re months into our first round of funding and we’re considerably further ahead in terms of the business plan than where we should be. It’s integral that we’re able to provide these services because we’ve had so many people reaching out to help and provide assistance to develop the organization.”
You have definitely hit the ground running and WP&UP is making waves within the community. How has your involvement with the WordCamp community impacted WP&UP?
“We’re actively supporting and sponsoring WordCamps which has given us the opportunity to connect with people all over the world who want to be involved with WP&UP. As WP&UP continues to grow, so does our team. We strive to include people who genuinely want to help and understand the challenges of battling mental health within the community. We’ve been UK centric because I’m based here and run UK meetups, but we’re focused on the global community in its entirety.”
Mental health isn’t widely discussed in such an open manner. Do you think that you are filling a void in the community?
“The issue here is that there is nobody is filling it and there is nothing regarding mental health in this space right now. The services we are developing with mental health professionals are similar models that exist outside of WordPress, but they don’t currently exist within the WordPress community. The ability for us to deliver professional services within our community is a unique aspect that sets WP&UP apart from other models.”
We couldn’t agree more, this is a vital and important service that people in and outside of the community can benefit from. Since people remain at the heart of your platform, what does the word community mean to you?
“For me personally, community is the people. I love the community and the people who make up every aspect of it whether you’re an organizer or developer. To know the community is to be apart of it and I’ve run the WordPress London meetup for 7+ years now and led WordCamp London. I’ve run stand alone contributor days and run an agency on the dev side so that has fueled my passion and love for creating a resource for this great group of people.”
Your love for the community really shines through in this organization. What tips would you give someone struggling with mental health?
“If a person is struggling with mental health, they need to find someone they trust and can be open with. It can be very difficult. They need to be able to express themselves freely without the fear of being judged. Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle to understand how to respond to those revelations as well. A big part of WP&UP is training on how to have that conversation whether you are the recipient or having that dialogue by yourself.”
If a person doesn’t have a trusted source to communicate to and wants to seek assistance through WP&UP, what is the process for contacting you?
“They can reach out to us through our website https://wpandup.org/contact/ and from there they have multiple options from the phone, live chat, and email support to give them a resource that’s most comfortable to them. We will respond promptly because we are dealing with people and we strive to make every interaction personal. There is no one size fits all solution and we emphasize to that individual to seek out a solution that works best for them whether we’re looking at mentorship, companionship, or a more structured form of support.
A big aspect of supporting members of the community comes from being able to identify where a person can be struggling. For example: Let’s say we have a person who is able to code and create awesome products but doesn’t have marketing skills to launch their business. Since they are unable to sell their products efficiently, this could lead to frustration in finances, anxiety, and depression. If we could educate that individual, then we can establish preventive measures to help their mental health from deteriorating.”
That’s a great example that shows how WP&UP is unique and specific to the WordPress community! Can you tell us more about the WP&UP Health Hubs?
“The WP&UP Health Hubs consists of mental, physical, business, and skills health. There is also a Mental Health Hub for the individuals that have a pre-existing mental health-related illness and we have dedicated staff and specific support to promote recovery and long term wellbeing. A lot of what we’re doing is partnering with existing services so we’re not reinventing the wheel.”
Collaboration and partnership are essential when you are covering such a complex topic like mental health. Social media is a vital communication tool for the WordPress community, and we know you use a branded hashtag. What does #pressforward mean to you?
“It’s similar to the name WP&UP, together we can press forward. We can move this, it’s a positive connotation. I would like to see #pressforward impacting the lives of 100,000 individuals. Unfortunately, it’s a commonly used hashtag, but WP&UP is something we’re launching into the WordPress community because we love and support this unique group of people even though our services aren’t WordPress specific. There is a long term outlook to deliver a movement outside of the WordPress community and space.”
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us Dan, we look forward to seeing WP&UP continue to make an impact within the WordPress community!
If you’d like to help Bluehost support WP&UP, join us in retweeting on Giving Tuesday and we will give $1 per retweet to help their cause.