Intellect’s goal is to encourage more people to incorporate mental health care into their daily routines by lowering barriers like high costs and social stigma. Intellect offers two products. One is a consumer app with self-guided programs based on cognitive behavioural therapy techniques that centre on issues like anxiety, self-esteem or relationship issues. The other is a mental health platform for employers to offer as a benefit and includes a recently launched telehealth service called Behavioural Health Coaching that connects users with mental health professionals.
More and more people are facing stress and disruption as Covid-19 swept through the world, bringing mental wellbeing into the spotlight. There’s been a steep rise of acceptance on mental health, but what about the access to this important service that has traditionally been expensive?
Acceptance for mental health has jumped ahead of the timeline by 5 years
Before 2020, mental health has been a taboo topic although the consequence of not taking it seriously has been grave. According to the World Health Organisation, despite close to 1 person dying every 40 seconds by suicide globally, access to quality and affordable mental health services is low. In India, up to 40 per cent of patients with mental health issues must travel more than 10km to reach the first available service at the district headquarters.
Even when clinics are geographically convenient, there is a stigma on people who seek help for their mental wellbeing. This is prevalent especially in Asia were being mentally unwell can be a sign of weakness, and suicide can be seen as an acceptable way of protecting one's honour. Even with its abundant resources for mental health, Singapore has one of the lowest rates of psychiatrists and psychologists per 100,000 residents among similar high-income countries. According to data from the ASEAN Mental Health Systems Report, Singapore has 2.8 psychiatrists for every 100,000 residents, compared to Australia’s ratio of 13.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 residents.
As more people face stress and disruption, mental wellbeing has been brought into the spotlight. Awareness of mental wellbeing has jumped ahead by 5 years. There’s been a steep rise of acceptance on mental health. The Intellect consumer-facing app has reached more than one million users just six months after launching, with users coming from Singapore, Indonesia, India and China.
Apps are making mental health more accessible
This increasing acceptance and demand is a win for the mental health and health tech industry, signalling a need for more investment into mental care services. We do foresee the uptake of digital mental health tech like Intellect rising over the next few years. As per a recent Absolute Markets Insights report, the global mental health apps market is expected to gain a significant lift over the forecast period due to increasing awareness regarding the importance of mental health. In terms of revenue, the global mental health apps market is expected to reach US$ 3,918.40 Million by 2027 owing to increasing levels of stress among societies.
Now that the stigma surrounding mental health is slowly diminishing, there is an urgent need to make it more convenient in terms of cost and to encourage awareness of what it really means to take care of one’s emotional well being. There are still opportunities to serve the everyday person who is struggling with stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. These are areas where mental health services can support the average person before it becomes a full-blown crisis.
Mental health support for employees is now a Must, not a Nice-to-Have
Before Covid-19 happened, mental health as an employee benefit was commonly seen in larger companies through the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) where employees can call a hotline and talk to a certified psychologist. It’s hardly seen in SMEs or startups because it's expensive. Even then we question the effectiveness of EAPs. Most EAPs are underutilized with a 1-2% adoption rate simply because employees don't know about them or understand what they provide.
More than ever, employers recognise the need to care for the well-being of their employees. Changing working environments and uncertainty calls for a new approach. With Covid-19, we see employers of all sizes realise the need to look after their employees’ wellbeing through a mental health programme but there has not been a lot of convenient choices to turn to. There is an especially urgent need to support the frontliners who are stressed out and do not have time to take care of their own mental health. A solution which fits into their busy routine is needed.
Perhaps to increase the acceptance rate of such solutions, employees need a self-guided or digitized solution that they can access anytime and anywhere without the fear of stigma. The low adoption rates of EAPs in companies show opportunities for startups like us to create a product that will make mental wellbeing more accessible for the everyday person.
Practitioners need to go Digital
When the world went into lockdown, access to mental health services was restricted. Many practitioners consult face-to-face but Covid-19 forces them to go digital. Mental health practitioners are open towards digitalization of their practice, however they are concerned that they can’t see the patient physically. They also fear competition.
However, they need to adapt to keep business operating. Once practitioners have tried telehealth service once, they are mostly okay with it. Telehealth is a good option to extend their practice and enable them to provide mental health support to more people in one day. Intellect’s telehealth service for employers, called Behavioural Health Coaching, connects users with mental health professionals through one-on-one video sessions and unlimited text messaging.
Business Tips for Mental Health Practitioners / Solopreneurs
Adjust by trying a new thing once.
It has been a rough year for everyone. We need the whole world to be up on our feet again as Covid-19’s impact touches every single person in one way or another. If you’re new to moving your business to a digital platform, just try it once before you give up. Usually you will find that it’s not so bad. Be part of the digital technological shift. At least be open to it, explore it, try it, and partner with service providers when you need help
Listen to Clients
Intellect was lucky as their product was well placed to meet demand. At the same time, they have to keep improving their product. They moved from a consumer app to an enterprise app. And now they are thinking about moving to the next step as clients request for a mental health coach and for more convenience. Make mental health service accessible just by listening to customers.
Don’t be scared of competition
Companies need to keep moving forward for the whole mental health industry to move forward. Anyway, there are not enough mental health practitioners in the world! With more awareness, comes more demand. There will be more than enough opportunities for mental health practitioners to fill in the gap from an individual level and an enterprise level.
In terms of competition from mental health apps, more players are always welcomed in the space to fill in the gaps of mental health care in the world. Levels of mental care service in this part of the world, have not yet reached levels of telehealth service as seen by Western Counterparts like Rose Wellness which is at least 3 years ahead. There’s still a lot to do.