Mental health matters now more than ever. Though the economic and political ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have been heavily felt and addressed on mainstream media, there is perhaps an even more pressing crisis at hand: Mental health around the world has taken a terrible plunge. In the Philippines, a country still without the infrastructure to support the mental health of a 100+ million individuals, a local tech startup, Mind You, has taken it upon themselves to rise up to the challenge. For this interview, I sit down with Yuri Marshall, CEO, Cameron Quinn, Chief Coordinator, Mark Pagal, Head of Product, and Rea Villa, Senior Psychologist, of Mind You Mental Health Services. Key components of the small but formidable force that is Mind You, they share with me what Mind You is all about, and their hopes for the Filipino people in a pandemic-stricken world.
Nikki: So what is Mind You?
Yuri: Mind You is a preventive mental health care company that provides health care support for mental health to enterprise level customers.
Cameron: What we do is help reduce stress, anxiety and depression in order to increase productivity. This allows for happier, healthier and more productive people by supporting workforces here in the Philippines.
Mark: Mind You provides telehealth counseling, so everyone can address their mental health concerns with licensed psychologists from the privacy of their own homes, as long as they have a mobile device.
Nikki: How was Mind You founded?
Yuri: Mind You was founded in early 2020, by myself, Cameron Quinn, Michael Needham and Mark Pagal. We saw the need for basic mental health care support in the Philippines. One of the main questions back then was, how do we provide support that is low cost, affordable and accessible to thousands of people? This is the thinking that lead to the creation of Mind You.
Nikki: A lot of people might be wondering if the services Mind You offers will be suited for Filipinos, given that all the founders are foreign or half-foreign. Cam and Yuri, you’ve mentioned that your experiences with mental healthcare in your home countries, Australia, the UK, have inspired your goals for Mind You. How would you say you’ve adapted to the cultural norms in the Philippines to make this service accessible to the Filipinos?
Yuri: Even though I grew up overseas, I was raised with a Filipino background and a Filipino culture. Both my parents are Filipino. I’ve been living in the Philippines for six years and I consider myself completely Filipino. In late 2019, I myself went through a bout of depression. I had suicidal thoughts. In Australia, where mental health awareness is well established, I was able to seek help during those critical times. Having come back to live in the Philippines, I see the urgency to provide better mental healthcare to everyone, especially given the pandemic. People are experiencing anxiety, stress and depression at unprecedented rates. Where is their support, where do they turn to? This is where Mind You can bridge the gap in healthcare. Our mission as a company is to save as many lives as we can; initially via an enterprise level subscription, we can take care of large working communities at once. Over the medium to long term, we do seek to provide affordable access to Filipinos across the entire nation regardless whether they’re in the metropolitan area or the regional area so that anyone going through dark times can get the support they need in the privacy of their own home. In fact, we’ve recently partnered with HealthNow app, so anyone who downloads the app can access our counseling services regardless of whether or not their organization offers a Mind You plan.
Cameron: Mind You has come in to completely change how the Philippines perceives mental health, and to increase the ability for every Filipino to access universal mental health care from the best in international best practices. It’s my hope that Mind You will be able to equip the Filipino people, who are already incredibly resilient despite a complete lack of accessible mental healthcare, with the right tools and resources to be able to help them overcome the challenges that come with life in the pre-and-post pandemic world. The isolation that we have gone through in the previous 12 months is unprecedented. I won’t even go into depth about all the economic, environmental, and political turmoil the country faced as of late. It suffices to say that we need to step up our game when it comes to mental health because the true ramifications of what has happened in the past 12 months are yet to come.
Yuri: We’ve also made a conscious decision to only hire locally registered psychologists. We’ve decided to really support the Philippines by only hiring Filipino licensed psychologists. This puts our clients in the hands of experienced psychologists who really understand the cultural context of the Philippines. Likewise, our science board advisory group combines very established psychologists in the Philippines as well as highly qualified international experts. This will allow us to bring mental healthcare in the Philippines at world class standard, that is also culturally attuned to the Philippines. I believe Rea, our senior psychologist at Mind You, has more to add.
Rea: Yes, I think Mind You is well equipped to address the needs of Filipinos at this critical time. As Senior Psychologist, I take the lead in terms of the day-to-day operations of the health department. So when we have high risk or suicidal cases, I ensure our intervention occurs as early and effectively as possible. Here in Mind You, we’re really focused on providing preventative mental health care. We want to support people before they ever even reach full blown depression or anxiety.
Mark: I’d also like to add that Mind You is technologically, incredibly sound. Our users will have a seamless experience on our platform. As head of product tier in Mind You, I’m in control of everything from the user interface to the user experience. This means the journey of our end users, from the minute that they touch point with us at Mind You, to the end experience that they get. This means everything from what our psychologists go through, our executive board goes through. I’m constantly thinking of innovating the product so that it functions at as high a level as possible.
Nikki: Can you share a little about the platform’s design and how it aligns to the company’s goals for the user experience? I understand that this is what makes Mind You so apt given the pandemic: It provides telehealth counseling, rather than holding in-person meetings.
Mark: Mind You’s design language overall is inspired by relief. We want to alleviate the stresses of people. We want to make sure everyone feels at ease. This means everything from the color choices to the typography, to the weight of the fonts. Everything is taken into account. And when it comes to the interactions of the users, we just want to make everything as simple and seamless as possible. I feel this speaks to the mission of the company as a whole. At the end of the day, our goal is very simple: We just want to make sure that the stigma towards mental health in the Philippines gets lifted and that mental healthcare becomes accessible to everyone in this country. Additionally, Mind You combines technology and mental health in a way that makes it a very smart investment for enterprises. What the organizations that are investing in mental health get is psychometric reporting that allows them to receive insights. We translate the data that comes into our systems from the conversations of the end users and allows the businesses to make better decisions, moving forward. Of course, we take data privacy very seriously. Ultimately, this allows mental health in the workplace to evolve so that it benefits everyone, socially and economically.
Nikki: So why should Filipinos care about their mental health? Who might benefit from using this service?
Rea: It’s inevitable that any person, at some point in their life, will go through a crisis. So, when we are faced with a crisis, you should be able to handle the amount of stress. If your coping mechanisms are lesser than the stressor, the tendency is you will break down. Thus, Mind You aims to help Filipinos find coping mechanisms and resiliency when dealing with crises. The World Health organization defines health using three components: Physical health, social well-being, and of course, mental health. What the pandemic has shown is that there is really a need to really focus on our mental health. Of course, this poses a unique challenge: There is no barometer that provides standard measurement of your mental state. When you have a fever, you use a thermometer. But mental health isn’t as straightforward. Hence, it’s very important to learn how to monitor and address your mental health, as mental wellbeing really varies from person to person.
Of course, one of the main challenges to mental health in the Philippines is the cultural stigma we have towards addressing mental health concerns. People don’t want to admit they have problems, and talking about mental health with our loved ones isn’t a cultural norm in this society. This is where registered psychologists come in-we are ready to have productive and safe conversations with our clients about their mental struggles. We have taken oaths to uphold confidentiality, stay neutral, and new unbiased. So one should never fear judgement coming to us. The hope is that Mind You truly paves the way towards breaking down stigmas about mental health in the Philippines, and that one day, talking about and watching over our mental wellbeing is truly a cultural norm in this society.
For more information, visit Mind You