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Spotlight on Mental Health Technologies
May 14, 2020
Prior to lockdown, mental health technology start-ups had been gathering exciting momentum, with global investment rising from £120m in 2014 to over £580m in 2019. Clearly the investment community recognises the huge importance of mental health, and the part technology has to play in ensuring our society is able to deal with the pressures of modern life, and rightly so.
Such technologies are now needed more than ever, with the impact of COVID19 likely to have significant long-term implications for individuals’ mental health; our post-COVID19 world will only exasperate existing concerns, and create new worries along the way. With increased professional isolation driven by an uplift in working from home practices, social isolation caused by restrictions on socialisation and leisure activities, heightened fears around personal health, family welfare, job security, the economy and ‘the future’ in general, the need for robust, readily available mental health support looks set to increase sharply in the coming months.
Even before the pandemic, the Mental Health Foundation estimated that there would be over 2 million people suffering from mental health problems by 2030 in the UK alone. With this in mind, the following are some of the UK companies I’ll be watching, as they look to keep people happy, healthy, and thriving as we adjust to the new normal;
Founded in London in 2016, Unmind is developing a digital wellbeing platform for workplaces, which is often a key trigger for mental health issues. Their technology allows employees to proactively measure and manage their mental health through scientifically-backed assessments, tools, training, and signposting, and is trusted by a number of renowned businesses, including British Airways, John Lewis, and Just Eat. The company has raised over £12m to date, and now employs over 50 people. With workplace challenges only set to increase in the coming months, with concerns around job insecurity, trading conditions, and isolation due to increased working from home all adding to employee’s day-to-day worries, their technology is well placed to help businesses support their staff through unprecedented times and beyond.
Spill are a London-based technology company developing a message-based therapy app focused on making mental health support more accessible, allowing its users to engage remotely with an appointed qualified therapist whenever they need to talk. Available to businesses as a tool to support their employees, Spill are also able to provide tracking and insights relating to the impact of mental health aspects of performance and attendance. Founded in 2017 and still at Seed stage, they are already working with companies such as Rightmove, Monzo and WhiteHat.
Ieso Digital Health
Cambridge-based Ieso Digital Health specialise in delivering online, evidence-based psychological therapy through their proprietary, AI-enabled platform, which connects patients with qualified therapists and allows for this therapy to be provided in written form (with typed conversation shown to remove the pressure of having a face-to-face conversation, whilst delivering effective outcomes). Furthermore, their technology is available to individuals through the NHS, rather than as an employee benefit, meaning anyone can access it. With the ubiquitous nature of mental health issues, this universal accessibility is an important differentiator compared to some of the companies in this space, and having already raised nearly £30m in funding, this awarding-winning business looks set to remain an important player in this market for the foreseeable future.
Also based in Cambridge, Psyomics are a seed-stage mental health company spun out of the University of Cambridge, who combine both digital and biological technologies to provide tools for faster diagnosis and prevention of mental health challenges in both workplace and clinical settings. Delivering effective treatment is often a major challenge for healthcare providers, not least because successful diagnosis can be a difficult and lengthy process; Psyomics’ technology seeks to remedy this by utilising both digital approaches and the latest developments in biomarker technology to allow for increased diagnostic accuracy and more personalised care recommendations, to enable faster recovery.
Hello Tomo is a London-based start-up founded in 2016, which look to combine the best aspects of social media with proven therapeutics techniques to help individuals work through mental health issues. Based on Behavioural Activation, a core element of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies used by psychiatrists, their app allows individuals to access an online peer-support network, and provides scheduled daily habits proven to support mental wellbeing. Once the individual completes their scheduled task, the app prompts them to upload a photo as a reminder of their progress, which is then shared anonymously with a small group of people, to celebrate the progress with others and motivate everyone to achieve their goals.