It is often said that the modern world is particularly conducive to mental health problems and that our culture of online comparison, instant gratification, and individualism all contribute. And the statistics back it up, as the number of people in the UK with common mental health issues went up by 20% between 1993 and 2014.
However, the modern world is also quick to act and find solutions to people’s problems. There has been a cultural shift in how we talk about mental health that acknowledges its importance and the seriousness with which it should be approached. Alongside this reconfiguration has been the development of new ideas, research, and technology to help find innovative ways to support those struggling with their mental health.
So what are some of the top mental health startups that have launched in recent years? And how do they help people with various mental health problems?
With World Mental Health Day this October, join us as we explore some of the top mental health startups to have emerged in the last few years.
What is mental health?
Mental health is a broad term that encompasses your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Although mental health is distinct from physical health, the two can significantly impact one another, and many people physically experience mental health issues.
Many of the startups we explore in our list use a CBT-focused approach to mental health treatment and mental well-being, so we will learn a bit more about what that means later in the article.
But first, let’s jump in and look at some of the top mental health startups available today.
9 Helpful mental health startups
Ieso Digital Health
Ieso Digital Health – formerly known as Psychology Online – offers CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for people with mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and several other disorders.
CBT is a form of therapy centred around the idea that your thought patterns impact your feelings, behaviour, and mental health. It aims to equip patients with the mental tools required to overcome negative thought cycles.
Ieso connects you with one of their accredited therapists (they have over 700), and you begin your CBT online. If you get an NHS referral, the therapy can be free of charge. You can also self-refer and pay for your sessions.
Oxford VR designs virtual reality software that can be used to help treat mental health problems.
The VR immerses the patient into a scenario they would normally find challenging or upsetting. The patient is then encouraged to practice bringing new ways of thinking to these situations using CBT techniques.
While CBT is effective for many people struggling with various mental health issues, one of the difficulties in the practice is that the patient is not (usually) accompanied by their therapist in the situations they struggle with. Oxford VR provides an immersive experience that helps overcome this practicality.
It can treat phobias, vertigo, social anxiety, and OCD, amongst other mental health issues.
notOK is an app that works as a panic button for people with mental health issues. Users simply input the details of up to five contacts who will instantly receive a message and your GPS location when they press a button.
The app aims to skip through the guesswork of people having to discern how you are feeling and is designed to bring those closest to you closer when you most need them.
If you don’t receive any responses from your contacts, you can also connect to a local mental health helpline via the app.
Awakn Life Sciences
Awakn Life Sciences is a Bristol-based startup that works on trying to bring psychedelics for the treatment of mental health into the mainstream.
Their current focus is on researching the treatment of alcohol abuse with psychedelic drug therapy, but as they advance, they aim to explore treating other mental health disorders.
Awakn researches the brain circuits that drive addiction and applies the controlled use of MDMA and ketamine to disrupt the repetitive thought cycles associated with addiction.
Mindful Healthcare provides online affordable mental health support and treatment. Mindful works with family members, teachers, doctors, therapists, and other support workers to help young people, students, veterans, and employees struggling with mental health.
Users talk to an AI chatbot that performs mental health assessments based on their situation and then designs a plan of action tailored to them their mental health care needs. They are then linked with an online therapist (if needed) who is specially selected based on the patient’s responses.
Mindful Healthcare also offers training and therapeutic programmes for schools, universities, and businesses to help those struggling with their mental health and those supporting them.
Sleepstation is a clinically approved programme that helps people who struggle with insomnia and other sleep-related problems.
Sleepstation aims to help people control their sleep using CBTi (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia) techniques. CBTi is recommended for severe insomnia and is more effective than sleeping pills in the long term.
Sleepstation offers an online programme that gives you access to a team of sleep coaches who tailor therapeutic courses based on your individual needs. Many users report better sleep after just four sessions with Sleepstation.
Mush has been called ‘Tinder for mums.’ While not technically a mental health startup, the app can be used for new mothers struggling to form a community alongside all the responsibilities that come with their new role.
The app links mums in a given vicinity with children of a similar age. They can then join chat groups, organise meetups and play dates, get advice from parenting experts, and share their own advice with other mothers.
TalkLife is an app with a simple premise but with life-changing results. The app connects you with other users who have experienced similar issues and helps to form online support networks amongst people who have struggled with the same mental health problems.
The TalkCampus version of the app is specifically designed for university students to connect.
TalkLife is backed by mental health clinicians, researchers, and AI designers.
Headspace is perhaps the best-known startup on our list, and it has become one of the most popular mental wellness apps since its launch.
Headspace offers guided meditations, breathing exercises, and sleep assistance programmes designed to help users focus their thoughts and quieten the modern world’s noises.
You can do single meditations or take part in long-term courses that deepen your understanding of how meditation works and its benefits.
Countless studies show the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for mental well-being, and Headspace is an app that wants to share them with the world.
What is CBT?
CBT is a form of talking therapy that helps change how you think and behave. It is based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, actions, and physicality are all connected, which means that negative thought patterns can leave you in a downward spiral.
CBT breaks down big problems into small components that are easier to overcome. You learn how to shift negative patterns into more positive ones until the positive ones become natural.
CBT is focused on dealing with your present issues rather than problems or traumas you have had in the past.
It can be used to treat a whole range of mental health conditions, including but not limited to:
- borderline personality disorder
- eating disorders
- obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- sleep problems
- chronic fatigue
How does a CBT session work?
During a CBT session you will work with your therapist to isolate your problems into individual parts. You will then determine the effect that each part has on one another. For example, how do your thoughts affect your feelings, and how do your feelings affect your physicality?
Your therapist will then work with you to teach you how to change harmful and unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours that are causing you problems. They will then ask you to start practicing these changes in your everyday life and to keep a journal of how you are managing, which you will then share in your next session.
CBT sessions are usually once a week or every fortnight, lasting between half an hour to an hour. You will usually have between five and 20 sessions, though your therapist may recommend you get more depending on your progress.
Does CBT work?
Many people find CBT a highly effective form of mental health treatment; for some, it is the only thing that works.
CBT can be obtained on the NHS, which means you don’t have to pay for it if you get a referral. Moreover, because of the nature of CBT, patients can undertake sessions in one-to-one sessions, group sessions, or online. This means that it is an accessible form of therapy that can be used by people from all manner of backgrounds.
However, CBT requires commitment, and the patient must work to reap the rewards. Furthermore, there are some mental health issues that are too complex to be aided by CBT, and it is by no means a cure-all, silver bullet remedy.
If you are considering starting CBT, talk with your GP first to find out more about it and to see if you can get a referral from them.
The number of people reporting mental health issues has risen over the last few decades. Whether this is due to increased cases or a wider trend of greater understanding of mental health is debatable. What is clear is that our growing knowledge of mental health and recognition of the importance of mental wellness means that there are now networks of support available that did not exist even ten years ago. Amongst these are some of the startups we explored above.
So, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues or needs to access mental health support, try looking into some of our recommended apps, businesses, and organisations, and remember that help is always there if you need it.