Singapore-based Intellect wants to lower barriers to mental health support in Asia

Singapore-based Intellect wants to lower barriers to mental health support in Asia

Taking care of your emotional well-being is as important as physical health, but in Asia the topic is often stigmatized. Intellect, a Singapore-based startup, wants to make the idea of ​​mental health more accessible with an app that offers self-guided exercises based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

The company develops consumer and corporate versions of the app (which employers can offer as an advantage) and now has users in countries like Singapore, Indonesia, India and China.

Singapore-based Intellect wants to lower barriers to mental health
Singapore-based Intellect wants to lower barriers to mental health

Since its beta launch earlier this year, co-founder and CEO Theodoric Chew says Intellect has registered about 10,000 users, as well as 10 companies of varying sizes from startups to large companies. The startup plans to launch Indonesian versions of Mandarin and Bahasa and is currently working with researchers to develop localized versions of its exercises, which include guided journaling, behavioral exercises and “rescue sessions” with short audio clips on topics such as stress, low self-esteem. , emotional exhaustion and sleep problems.

The company staged a pre-seed round that included Enterprise Singapore, a government agency that supports entrepreneurship.

In the U.S. and Europe, there is a growing list of self-help apps that teach users how to deal with strategies for common mental health problems, including Headspace, MoodKit, Moodnotes, Sanvello and Happify, to name a few examples. But space is still emerging in Asia.

Prior to launching Intellect, Chew was head of affiliate growth and content marketing at Voyagin, a travel booking market that was acquired by Rakuten in 2015. He became interested in the mental health space because of his experiences.

“I have been in therapy for anxiety a bit and in Asia, there is still a lot of social stigma and there are not many tools. A lot of work is being done in the United States and Europe, but in Asia it is still developing”, Chew told ProWellTech.

He added that “most people avoid when it comes to mental health. We see a lot of this in Asia, but if we frame it in other ways, like how to work on personal problems, such as low self-esteem or confidence, we see a huge change in the people who are opening up. ”

Intellect was developed with feedback from mental health professionals, but Chew points out that it is not a substitute for professional therapy. Instead, it aims to offer people an accessible way to take care of their mental health, especially in cultures where there is still a lot of stigma on the subject. The app exercises address low mood and anxiety, but also common workplace and interpersonal issues, such as developing assertiveness and handling criticism.

The corporate version of the app can be customized with exercises tailored to people from different sectors. It is intended for start-ups and other SMEs that do not have the type of employee assistance programs (EAPs) that large companies can offer, which often include mental health resources, such as support hotlines and references to service providers. mental health.

The consumer app usually charges a flat monthly fee which gives unlimited access to all its features, but Intellect makes it free during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the end, the startup hopes to develop a network of mental health professionals that users can connect to within the app.

“Our approach is that therapy is not just for clinically depressed people, but for everyone,” said Chew. “In three or five years, we want to make therapy a common place to deal with everyday problems. We want to address other clinical problems as well, but we believe that most people can take advantage of training it as a way to deal with everyday problems using CBT-based methods. ”

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