Masawa Minute 32
Is tech redefining mental health access? | Women trailblazing the movement | + More!
This is the Masawa Minute — mental wellness, social impact, and impact investing snippets on what we’re pondering + where you can get active.
In this newsletter, we share our thoughts about tech, some insight into how global mental wellness can be transformed to include underserved and low-income communities and some bits of inspiration. Enjoy!
A few Masawis are enrolled in Forum for the Future’s Investors in Change course, a nice refresher on the importance of viewing the world through a systems lens and questioning the power dynamics that exist all around us.
Systems, whether they be the mental healthcare system, planetary health system, organizational system, or the economic equity system, aren’t inherently broken, they’re merely unwell. Systems, like nature, already have all the capabilities needed to heal and regenerate themselves.
As impact investors, we can’t forget that in addition to striving for a positive financial and social return on investment, we’re also working towards better systems health. By continuously deepening our understanding of the multitude of systems in which we’re embedded, we can make optimal interventions, reduce unintended consequences, and create the change we want to see in this world.
The ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health is holding its annual conference on the 23rd — 25th March. This year’s title is “Social Change, Inequality and Mental Health: Shifting the Narrative” and the event is free to attend.
Over the three days, renowned speakers will deliver a variety of sessions focusing on youth mental health, racism and social inequality, communities, wellbeing, and so much more. The event aims to bring researchers, service users, survivors, third sector members, policymakers and members of the general public together to exchange ideas, knowledge and ignite a meaningful change. For that reason, according to the organizers, the event is designed to be as interactive as possible.
The topics covered by the conference are essential to discuss and act on if we ever want to truly achieve a global mental wellness transformation and move towards a more equitable world. We can’t wait to take part in these essential conversations — will you join us?
What we’re reading…
🛸 Technology is redefining access to mental wellness
We talk about tech a lot and that’s because we believe it plays a significant role in shaping the global mental wellness landscape. Technology has the power to increase the accessibility of mental wellness support and shape the conversation about who is to get that access. That’s why we decided to share some of our thoughts about the subject in an article.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health is now on many more people’s radars than it was a year ago. However, mental health care remains remarkably underfunded, leading to large costs being imposed on society and widening the already large treatment gap. There are also other barriers to accessing the care people need, like cost and geographical constraints, social stigma and low perceived need for treatment.
Here’s how tech is slowly but steadily changing the situation. Besides making mental health care more affordable and reducing or removing the geographical constraints, some innovations in the sector are placing their focus on preventative care, which increases their capacity to focus on the people that need it most. It’s also contributing to shifting the mindset from viewing mental health as something purely clinical to a more holistic understanding of mental wellbeing. There’s still a long way to go before everyone can freely access the support they need, but progress is made every day. And we’re happy we can do our part to support it.
🌍 It’s time global mental health becomes truly global
Most of the global population live in low and middle-income countries, which are often neglected in the Western-centered mainstream discourse. These countries also receive only a small fraction of global resources for mental health (that are already wildly insufficient in the first place), which makes dealing with the mental health-related implications of Covid-19 and its aftermath that much more difficult.
The middle and low-income countries that lack resources and house vulnerable populations are experiencing the greatest impact of the pandemic, which will last long into the future. Unless these impacts are meaningfully addressed, a high price will be paid in human suffering and social as well as economic losses. It’s an opportunity to begin the long-needed transformation of mental health systems and make sure that they include a diverse range of accessible tools to improve everyone’s mental wellness.
The review published in The Lancet journal discusses how the pandemic has impacted the countries, what responses have been made, the opportunity that arises to reimagine how we see and access mental health globally and a future vision for mental health systems. It’s high time the social determinants of mental illness are addressed in the social impact work, and we start working on reimagining mental health on a truly global scale.
👭 Women trailblazing the movement
Every day should be women’s day in our eyes, and therefore we decided to learn more about the women at the forefront of the global mental health movement. This post highlights women innovators pushing the limits to make mental health more accessible and moving closer to a world that centers mental wellbeing of everyone.
The list features a considerable amount of tech startup founders and CEOs, like April Koh (Spring Health), Alyson Watson (Modern Health), Jo Agarwal (Wysa). These tools have already reached millions of users, helping them through mobile gaming technology, AI chatbots, personalized mental health care resources and more. These founders and their startups have also been making headlines lately thanks to raising successful funding rounds (Modern Health recently reached a unicorn status) and proving that investment in mental health is needed, and it’s needed now.
Other women are leading groundbreaking movements — Elisha London (United for Global Mental Health), Hauwa Ojeifo (She Writes Woman), Chirlane McCray (ThriveNYC), Poppy Jaman OBE (City Mental Health Alliance). Their work on creating global campaigns, building communities, developing policies is transforming the mental health-related experiences of many — it helps more people tell their stories, reduces stigma, removes barriers to accessing help and helps society take steps towards equity and justice.
We love seeing women in positions of power dedicating their work to bringing positive change in global mental health and helping millions of people take control of their wellbeing. This list features just a few of them — take a look, get inspired and give some sincere appreciation to the remarkable women in your circle. We’ll do the same!
🤹♀️ A new player in the brain tech field
HelloSelf has some exciting news to share — a London-based brain tech startup has just raised a £5.5 million Series A funding round led by a VC firm OMERS Ventures. As part of the deal, Harry Briggs, the firm’s Managing Partner, will join the board.
HelloSelf offers digital therapy services and positions itself as a more affordable and accessible tool for people in need and has reported their users benefitting from a service focused on delivering better care than in-person therapy. The platform currently works with over 150 clinical psychologists, engineers and developers, and provides coaching and treatment to over 1,500 members. The data, outcomes and feedback are analyzed and further tailored to match the clients’ needs.
The funds raised so far will be primarily used to develop their new B2B product HelloSelf@Work. The program will target organizations in the UK, providing them with tailored “needs-based” mental health support for their employees. The tools will range from in-person and digital coaching to wellness plans. We wish the team success and can’t wait to see their next accomplishments.
📱 How to leverage telehealth to support underserved communities
During the last year, telehealth has become the new normal — in the second quarter of 2020 telemedicine visits have increased 25 times compared to those of the second quarter of 2019, jumping from 1.4 to 35 million. Health care is shifting to reach the patients wherever they are and more focus needs to be placed on underserved communities. As telehealth often is synonymous with immediate, more affordable care, addressing the groups that can’t easily reach and/or afford health care providers is an opportunity not to be missed. This article addresses the providers working in the mental health care sector and suggests a few ways how that can be achieved.
One of the most important things to increase accessibility is keeping the technology user-friendly. The patients may not have access to a personal computer, a smartphone, or even the internet, and these obstacles need to be taken into account. It could mean a desktop version next to an app, sharing resources ahead of the visit or conducting the session on the phone. A flexible mindset is key and telehealth provides a perfect opportunity to incorporate a range of services that can enhance treatment and lead to long-lasting results for patients seeking affordable, supplemental treatment.
That being said, it’s necessary to understand the limitations of telemedicine. While it can serve well in increasing accessibility, there are situations where remote care is simply not appropriate — for instance, some find the home environment unsuitable for focusing on treatment, others struggle to develop trust in the care provider and the treatment plan. Understanding when an in-person visit is required is part of the transformation process and will help find better solutions for each patient in the long run.
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Gabija works as a Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Masawa. She lets her vision of a more just, sustainable, equitable world guide Masawa’s story and inform the work towards transforming global mental wellness to make it accessible and accepted.