Mental Health

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Singapore-based mental health app Intellect reaches one million users, closes seed funding

Theodoric Chew, co-founder and chief executive officer of mental health app Intellect

Theodoric Chew, co-founder and chief executive officer of mental health app Intellect

Intellect, a Singapore-based startup that wants to lower barriers to mental health care in Asia, says it has reached more than one million users just six months after launching. Google also announced today that the startup’s consumer app, also called Intellect, is one of its picks for best personal growth apps of 2020.

The company recently closed an undisclosed seed round led by Insignia Ventures Partners. Angel investors including e-commerce platform Carousell co-founder and chief executive officer Quek Siu Rui; former Sequoia partner Tim Lee; and startup consultancy xto10x’s Southeast Asia CEO J.J. Chai also participated.

In a statement, Insignia Ventures Partners principal Samir Chaibi said, “In Intellect, we see a fast-scaling platform addressing a pain that has become very obvious amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that pairing clinically-backed protocols with an efficient mobile-first delivery is the key to break down the barriers to access for millions of patients globally.”

Co-founder and chief executive officer Theodoric Chew launched Intellect earlier this year because while there is a growing pool of mental wellness apps in the United States and Europe that have attracted more funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, the space is still very young in Asia. Intellect’s goal is encourage more people to incorporate mental health care into their daily routines by lowering barriers like high costs and social stigma.

Intellect offers two products. One is a consumer app with self-guided programs based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques that center on issues like anxiety, self-esteem or relationship issues.

The other is a mental health platform for employers to offer as a benefit and includes a recently launched telehealth service called Behavioural Health Coaching that connects users with mental health professionals. The service, which includes one-on-one video sessions and unlimited text messaging, is now a core part of Intellect’s services, Chew told TechCrunch.

Intellect’s enterprise product now reaches 10,000 employees, and its clients include tech companies, regional operations for multinational corporations and hospitals. Most are located in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and India, and range in size from 100 to more than 3,000 employees.

For many small- to mid-sized employers, Intellect is often the first mental health benefit they have offered. Larger clients may already have EAP (employee assistance programs), but Chew said those are often underutilized, with an average adoption rate of 1% to 2%. On the other hand, he said Intellect’s employee benefit program sees an average adoption rate of 30% in the first month after it is rolled out at a company.

Chew added that the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted more companies to address burnout and other mental health issues.

“In terms of larger trends, we’ve seen a huge spike in companies across the region having mental health and wellbeing of their employees being prioritized on their agenda,” said Chew. “In terms of user trends, we see a significantly higher utilization in work stress and burnout, anxiety and relationship-related programs.”

Intellect’s seed round will be used to expand in Asian markets and to help fund clinical research studies it is currently conducting with universities and organizations in Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Human Capital: The gig economy in a post-Prop 22 world

Welcome back to Human Capital and congrats on making it through one of the hardest weeks of the longest year.

Now that the Associated Press has called the election in favor of Joe Biden, it should be good news for DEI practitioners, who expressed some worry they’d be out of a job if Trump was allowed to continue on his path of destruction.

Meanwhile, over in California, the Uber and Lyft -backed gig worker ballot measure, Prop 22, passed. We’ll get into what that all means and the implications moving forward.

Human Capital is a weekly newsletter that lands in subscribers’ inbox every Friday at 1 p.m. PT. Sign up here to receive it.

Gig workers will continue being independent contractors in CA

As y’all may have seen by now, the Uber and Lyft-backed gig worker measure, Proposition 22, passed in California

The current count is 58.4% in favor of Prop 22 and 41.6% in opposition. Below, you can see how mostly counties in Northern California along the coast drove the opposition. 

That means gig workers will continue to be classified as independent contractors in the state. It also essentially makes these gig companies exempt from AB-5, the gig worker bill that went into law at the beginning of the year. Lastly, it means we can expect these gig companies, which spent $205 million on the ballot measure, to seek similar legislation in other states.

“To get Prop 22 passed, gig companies — which have yet to turn a profit — spent a historic $205 million on their campaign, effectively creating a political template for future anti-democratic, corporate law-making,” Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of AI Now Institute and Veena Dubal, professor of law at the University of California, Hastings, wrote.

On Uber’s earnings call this week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company would “more loudly advocate for laws like Prop 22” throughout the U.S. and worldwide.

Meanwhile, labor groups are already planning their next steps forward. Partnerships for Working Families, for example, is considering potentially lobbying the hopeful Biden administration’s Department of Labor for better federal laws for worker classification, according to Cal Matters. Other options entail suing for issues around worker’s compensation requirements or the ⅞ supermajority needed to amend Prop 22.

Below are statements issued over the past couple of days from interested parties.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to drivers: “With this vote, drivers and delivery people will get what so many of you have been asking for: access to benefits and protections, while maintaining the flexibility and independence you want and deserve.

The future of independent work is more secure because so many drivers like you spoke up and made your voice heard—and voters across the state listened.”

Lyft Chief Policy Officer Anthony Foxx: “California voters have spoken, and they stood with more than a million drivers who clearly said they want independence plus benefits. Prop 22 is now the first law in the nation requiring health, disability and earnings benefits for gig workers. Lyft stands ready to work with all interested parties, including drivers, labor unions and policymakers, to build a stronger safety net for gig workers in the U.S.”

DoorDash CEO Tony Xu: Passing Prop 22 is a big win for Dashers, merchants, customers, and communities. Californians sided with drivers, recognizing the importance of flexible work and the critical need to extend new benefits and protections to drivers like Dashers

Gig Workers Rising: “Billionaire corporations just hijacked the ballot measure system in California by spending millions to mislead voters. The victory of Prop 22, the most expensive ballot measure in U.S. history, is a loss for our democracy that could open the door to other attempts by corporations to write their own laws.” 

Gig Workers Collective: “Our organizing has always been untraditional since we aren’t classified as employees and don’t have the legal protections to organize or unionize, but we still found a way to build worker power and fight back. We’re disappointed in tonight’s outcome, especially because this campaign’s success is based on lies and fear-mongering. Companies shouldn’t be able to buy elections. But we’re still dedicated to our cause and ready to continue our fight.” 

DEI professionals hope for a Biden administration

Uber Chief Diversity Officer Bo Young Lee said on Twitter that for many DEI professionals, “the results of the election will impact how we do our jobs and may even impact if we have jobs in the long term.”

Now that Biden is the presumptive president, the change in the administration will likely mean a change in the executive order banning types of diversity training for federal contractors.

Late last month, three civil rights groups filed a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s execute order. That suit came after Microsoft disclosed that the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs contacted the company regarding its racial justice and diversity commitments made in June.

Shine app founder talks mental health for Black people and people of color

Shine app co-founders Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey

On this week’s episode of Mixtape, we spoke with Shine app founder Marah Lidey about mental health. We spoke about the psychological and physiological manifestations of racism, the adverse effects of 2020 and how Black death isn’t new, but it’s finally getting global attention.

“Nothing necessarily new is happening with Black people dying in the streets,” Lidey said. “[Black people] all know that. But when all of your friends and co-workers become aware in this very new way and want to understand and want to share and want to ask you questions and you’re watching this play out at this national level and you’re bombarded at the global level, right I mean, this is in our DNA. Our cells were in the cells of those people who were enslaved.”’

You can check out the full conversation here.

Yelp adds a new director to its board

Yelp announced the addition of Tony Wells, chief brand officer at USAA, to its board of directors. Wells also just so now happens to be Yelp’s only Black director on the board.

“Tony is the fifth Board member we’ve welcomed to Yelp over the last couple of years, as we further diversify and refresh the Board’s collective expertise in relevant verticals in order to best serve the company and our shareholders as we embark on our next chapter,” Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said in a statement. “We welcome Tony’s creativity and perspective, and we are thrilled to have him join our Board.”

If the holidays suck for you, head to the nicest place on the internet

If the holidays suck for you, head to the nicest place on the internet

This is a wonderful time of the year, where friends and family gather in love and harmony — in theory.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to embrace the holiday spirit. 

For reasons ranging from familial fallings-out, to a lack of available friends, to having no living relatives, to simply having to work over the holidays, many people the world over will be spending Christmas alone. Meanwhile, many others will spend the day surrounded by people but wishing they were by themselves instead.

The holidays can be a trying time for everyone, so English comedian Sarah Millican came up with an initiative to help people make it through. In 2010 she started the #joinin hashtag on Twitter, aimed at bringing tidings of comfort and joy to anyone struggling through this time of year. Read more…

More about Christmas, Holidays, Mental Health, Sarah Millican, and Lonliness

Mental well-being took center stage at CES 2019

This week, the Las Vegas Convention Center was packed with many of the year’s biggest new devices. But over the last several years, The Sands has become the place where the real magic happens. The segment of the show known as Eureka Park is where the startups and accelerators congregate, often times showing off products that are still years away.

A quick walk around the floor (insofar as someone can walk quickly with that much humanity slowly shuffling through the halls) sheds a lot of light on the industry’s biggest trends. Plenty are holdovers from previous years — smart home and wearables continue to dominate —  but others offer insight into where the next several years of technology may be going.

One key trend that absolutely exploded this past year is mental well-being. Between the sleep, relaxation, concentration and meditation products on display, you couldn’t walk five feet without encountering another pitch. The list includes some familiar faces (to us, at least) like the Muse meditation and sleep headsets and a whole slew of new entrants.

The trajectory tracks if you consider many of these products a kind of extension of the fitness trackers that were all the rage a few years back. First startups pushed to keep our bodies in shape, moving on to sleep tracking and, eventually, our minds. The accessibility of sensors that can track things like basic brain activity have helped push the concept along.

It’s a worthy cause, of course. The proliferation of many technologies has done some pretty rough stuff to our bodies and brains over the years. Wouldn’t it be great if tech could also turn that around.

In many cases, the use is clear. Decades of scientific studies have demonstrated the value simply sitting quietly during meditation practice can have on your stress levels and mental health. If a product can help you get into a routine, great. But there’s an even larger opportunity for snake oil salespeople than we saw on the fitness side.

Certainly the FDA has a role to play, ensuring that companies can’t make untested medical claims for their products, but much of the burden here will ultimately be placed on journalist and consumer alike. When it comes to this category, the placebo effect is very real.

Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best opens up about the real effects of intense backlash

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Sometimes people don’t realise that hating on a fictional character can have repercussions, particularly on the real human being playing the part.

Reminding us of this is actor Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars franchise, and who opened up about his experience with intense backlash on Tuesday.

Binks, the friendly Gungan, made his debut in 1999’s Episode 1, The Phantom Menace, with a smaller role in Attack of the Clones, and a brief cameo in Revenge of the Sith.

But although some adored Jar Jar, the character was quickly swept up in wave of audience and media criticism, eventually becoming one of the most railed-on characters in Star Wars history. Read more…

More about Mental Health, Suicide, Jar Jar Binks, The Phantom Menace, and Ahmed Best

Text to Save Lives – Crisis Text Line Needs YOU!

Twice in my life I tried seeking help when I was feeling suicidal: once from an in-person counselor, and once from a phone based hotline. Both services failed to provide the support I needed, and I left the experience feeling just as bad, if not worse. Thanks to mobile technology and one great idea, we now have another option — Crisis Text Line — and they need volunteers who can text, particularly late at night, since peak crisis hours are between 8pm and 4am.

(more…)

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Finding your chill in VR is easy when you can meditate on Mars

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Currently, most of the virtual reality developer brainpower is being directed toward creating amazingly immersive games (and to a lesser extent, film and non-gaming interactive experiences). But when you just want to kick back and find your chill, the options in VR are surprisingly limited. 

That said, I think I’ve found the best of the bunch. 

My parameters were simple. I wanted something you could use on a high-end VR headset (not mobile), the logic being that when I meditate I want to be in a safe space, where I don’t have to think about pedestrians, airplanes or any other interruptions while trying to relax. Read more…

More about Spirituality, Mental Health, Gear Vr, Samsung Gear Vr, and Htc Vive

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Forever alone: Why too much social media use might lead to loneliness

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The more time you spend staring at your smartphone — scrolling through Facebook, trolling on Twitter, snapping on Snapchat — the lonelier you’re prone to feel, researchers say.

A national study on young adults found that frequent use of social media might be associated with increased feelings of isolation. As anyone with FOMO knows, watching other people’s digital lives is an imperfect substitute for real-world interactions.

“We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together,” said Brian Primack, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh.  Read more…

More about Psychology, Mental Health, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter

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What a teen's recent livestreamed suicide reveals about mental health and social media

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On Dec. 30, Katelyn Nicole Davis turned on the livestreaming app Live.me at her home in Cedartown, Georgia, and broadcast her own suicide.

As that video spread across the internet and social media, it demonstrated how quickly technology can turn casual spectators into traumatized witnesses. The video also left those who encountered it online or through news reports wondering what would drive a young person — Davis was just 12 — to invite unsuspecting friends and strangers to watch a life vanish before their eyes. 

More about Social Media, Facebook Live, Social Good, Mental Health, and Conversations

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