Mental health is the psychological, social and emotional well-being of a person, and impacts the way one thinks, feels and behaves. It is the condition of the mind, which is a part of our body. Yet, physical health is considered to be much more important, and takes priority over mental health. For example, if you have fever or a stomach ache, you’re allowed to take a day off from work or school; but if you’re not feeling well mentally or emotionally, that isn’t accepted as a valid enough reason to get a day off.
A lot is expected from people today, especially the youth — workloads are increasing, the bar for achievements is set higher, and so on. All of this, along with all the factors in life are causing the levels of stress and anxiety to consistently rise. There is no lack of negativity in the world, hence one encounters stressors everywhere in their daily lives — be it interpersonal relationship problems or issues to do with one’s identity — and all of them have a strong effect on our mental health. The late teens and early twenties adults often feel as if they need to have their entire lives planned out by this age due to societal pressures. Basically, everyone is going through something all the time and despite this, mental health isn’t given the importance it deserves.
Most people across the globe don’t even acknowledge mental health issues and consider this topic to be taboo. A majority of the population worldwide doesn’t understand what mental health is, and so even if one person is aware and wants to visit a therapist or a counselor (“brain doctor”) they face statements like “are you crazy?”, “but nothing’s wrong with you!” There’s no concept of visiting a therapist just to talk something out. If another person suggests visiting a therapist to someone, their immediate reaction is “oh do you think I’m crazy?” It’s very stigmatized, which is odd since the number of lives lost due to suicide from mental health issues, such as depression, is rising continuously. Thus, it’s very important to recognize mental health issues and find solutions for the problem that we face when discussing it.
Due to the above mentioned reactions, a lot of people don’t wish to confess to their friends or family that they are thinking of going for therapy. Additionally, sometimes people feel ashamed to talk to a therapist about certain aspects of their lives and admit that they need and want help, because a therapist is a human being and therefore can judge and form impressions. This is where mental health — tech start — ups come into play and have an important role. These companies aim to bring counselling and help closer to those who want it.
In the past five years or so, the world has seen many mental health — tech start — ups coming about. All of them are trying to leverage technology to achieve this goal because technology is such a powerful tool. It helps connect people from all around the world. These companies have used different technologies to make mental health care available for people right from their phones — by creating an artificially intelligent chatbot that can read verbal cues and lend a listening ear, preparing online life coaches that provide quick techniques to deal with panic attacks and can track your mental and emotional health on a daily basis. These start-ups are really picking up and saving lives.
Categories of Mental Health Tech Startups
There are six broad categories that these start-ups fall under, many falling under two or more of them. The categories have been adapted from a similar article analyzing the mental health tech space in the US.
- Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT): Leveraging mobile interfaces to create self care behavioral change programmes instead of pills to cure mental illnesses
- Telepsychiatry: Startups providing therapists with a communication interface to connect with patients digitally, or creating an independent digital practice from scratch.
- Consumer Tools: Building non-therapeutic mobile products to either enable patients to set daily personal goals, facilitate communication between patients and other peers through vertical networks, or create educational content on the space.
- Applied Artificial Intelligence: Using techniques such as conversational intelligence, predictive analytics, or machine learning at the core of the product to provide a more personalized and efficient approach to prevention, treatment or diagnosis.
- Provider Tools: Building a new generation of software to help in the operational efficiency of therapists, or empowering interoperability between practitioners and other key stakeholders of the medical ecosystem.
- Hardware: Using connected hardware — whether it is a VR headset, an intelligent wristband, or any kind sensor enabled device — to capture biometric data and help patients or therapists with monitoring, or build more immersive therapeutic content.
The tables below include information of mental health tech startups from around the world.
Click on the start-ups below to know more about what they do:
Woebot, Spring, Lyra, Calm, Headspace, Happify, Joyable, Simple Habit, Sync Project, 10% Happiness, BigHealth (Sleepio), Ginger.io, Quartet Health, Huddle, Thrive Global, NeuroFlow, Limbix, Shine Text, Bark, Talkspace, Cognitive Leap, Feel, meQuilibrium, Koko.
There’s still a long way to go, but there start-ups are certainly doing their bit to aid individuals in the battle with their mental health.