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Five From Finland

Mental health and wellbeing

Finnish companies have found supportive ways to treat a variety of mental health issues.

Credits: : Julia Helminen

The importance of mental health awareness has risen to the spotlight in the past few years, and Finnish innovators are extending a helping hand to those going through tough times.

Anyone can experience mental distress at some point in their life, irrespective of age, home country or social status, with the COVID-19 pandemic having led to an increase in mental health struggles. According to the World Mental Health Report recently released by World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health needs around the globe are high, but responses are insufficient and inadequate. Focusing attention on these matters, WHO highlights that change is urgently needed.

Below are five Finnish companies on a mission to support mental health and wellbeing with innovative solutions.

Meru Health

Meru Health’s solution is delivered via an app offering a mind-body approach which combines behavioural science, technology and support from remote licensed therapists and psychiatrists.

Meru Health

Created by an experienced team of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, Meru Health is a digital therapy platform that offers a clinically proven treatment programme for depression, anxiety and burnout with long-lasting effects. By providing people with efficient digital tools, Meru Health wants to solve the global issue of poor or no access to mental health services and make mental healthcare accessible to everyone in need of it.

“The Meru Health solution is based on three evidence-based therapies: cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based interventions and behavioural activation, delivered via an app with support from remote licensed therapists and psychiatrists,” explained CEO Kristian Ranta.

With offices in both Helsinki and San Mateo, California, Meru Health is particularly active in the US market, where its programme has seen a handful of deployments, including partnerships with Mental Health Center of Denver and one of the US’s largest health insurance companies, Cigna.

Meru Health envisions it will empower 10 million people suffering from mental health challenges by 2027. The ambitious goal is backed with substantial funding. The company raised 38 million US dollars last year and received a grant worth two million US dollars from the National Institute of Mental Health earlier this year. The grant will be used to study the effectiveness of its solution in a study comprising 300 primary care patients who are experiencing symptoms of depression between April 2022 and March 2025.

“We’ve built an effective, accessible treatment and we’re going to reach as many people as we can,” Ranta noted.

Auntie

The Auntie team is boosting its international presence, offering service packages in 20 different languages. 

Facebook / Auntie

Helping people to tackle some of the most common yet highly challenging life challenges, such as feeling stressed out or being overworked, Auntie is a preventive therapy service offering personal video meetings with mental wellbeing professionals and acting as a middle ground between face-to-face psychotherapy appointments and self-help tools.

Auntie’s customer base consists primarily of enterprises, varying from small local companies to large international corporations, seeking professional support for employees in coping with stress, overachieving, lack of motivation and other everyday working life issues, as well as in preventing burnout. What employers find important is that, with Auntie, the progress is always measurable.

As more and more firms worldwide are beginning to focus their employee wellbeing efforts on prevention and early intervention, Auntie’s market is rapidly expanding. The company’s service packages can now be purchased in 20 different languages, and Auntie keeps on strengthening its international presence. The mission is backed by a 10 million-euro funding boost received last year from Verdane, a Northern European growth equity firm specialising in technology-enabled sustainable business.

“Auntie isn’t for people with clinical mental disorders, as they require a different level of professional care,” clarified CEO and co-founder Mervi Lamminen. “Whilst helping people, we also want to contribute to the availability of low-threshold services and, in general, help to remove the stigma that unfortunately can still surround seeking therapy.”

CupOfTherapy

CupofTherapy encourages people to reflect on their lives and find consolation, encouragement and joy.

CupofTherapy

This meaningful Finnish brand raises awareness about mental health and wellbeing through heart-warming illustrations of animal characters complete with feel-good phrases. The concept was developed by illustrator and graphic designer Matti Pikkujämsä and psychotherapist Antti Ervasti.

To provide comfort to people who are pushing through adversity or simply in need of some encouragement in their everyday lives, CupOfTherapy is spreading its soothing drawings and uplifting messages through social media, a series of popular books and a wide range of consumer products. Among them there are board and card games designed to make it easier to explore the players’ own world of emotions and speak their mind.

“Animals help us tell things that would seem awkward or even angsty if we used human characters,” Pikkujämsä explained. “An animal is simultaneously distant yet easy to approach.”

The idea of making mental health visible and bringing up serious topics in a creative, gentle and accessible way has resonated well with audiences worldwide, including in JapanChina and Korea, and North America. Moreover, CupOfTherapy is involved in various charitable projects and claims to donate part of its sales revenue to mental health work.

Neurosonic

Neurosonic’s solution uses mechanical low-frequency vibrations which are directed throughout the body.

Neurosonic

With its groundbreaking technology, this Oulu-based healthtech company offers a safe, certified and research-proven way to relieve physical and mental stress, fight persistent fatigue and anxiety, overcome various sleeping disorders, ease pain, and, ultimately, improve quality of life.

“We have developed a method based on mechanical low-frequency vibrations, which are directed through the whole body,” explained psychotherapist and chief scientific officer Marco Kärkkäinen. “It has proven to be an astonishingly efficient method of recovery.”

The technology that produces relaxing and beneficial vibrations is used in furniture, such as in mattresses, chaise longues, armchairs and special pods, and can be controlled wirelessly with a mobile application. The app enables users to select a preferred programme for relaxation, activation or recovery, lasting from 10 to 40 minutes.

Neurosonic’s technological approach to both physical and mental wellbeing has sparked interest among psychotherapy and healthcare specialists, private users, as well as companies willing to utilise the innovation to help their employees to shake off work-related stress and fully recharge during breaks.

Aalto University

Researchers at Aalto University hope that with the development of therapeutic video games mental health treatment will gradually reach more and more people.

Aalto University / SoihtuDTx

Researchers at Aalto University have taken a novel approach to treating one of the most common mental health disorders by developing an action video game which, alongside drug and other therapies, can help to ease symptoms in patients with depression and improve their cognitive performance.

“In game terms, Meliora is a combination of first-person shooter and strategy game,” explained professor Matias Palva, who is heading the research group. “The player explores a three-dimensional environment and tries to free the world from the creatures that plague it. Understanding their deeper nature is a key issue in the game.”

An earlier version of the game was tested in a clinical study conducted by the psychiatry department of Helsinki University Hospitalthe University of Helsinki and Mental Hub. It was shown that playing the game actively for eight weeks reduced depression symptoms and improved cognitive function.

According to Palva, it’s “important to develop games that are specifically targeted at mental health.” Doctoral researcher and psychologist Lauri Lukka has expressed a similar opinion.

“We need many different types of treatment to meet various needs and preferences,” he said. “Games can uniquely challenge our thinking, offer positive experiences and a sense of connection with others.”

The research team announced last month that they are looking for volunteers interested in participating in a 24-week study evaluating the effect of video games on the symptoms of depression and the dynamics of brain activity. Aged 18–65 years and diagnosed with depression, the participants will be invited to play the therapeutic video game remotely from their home, as well as to take part in an interview about their gaming experience and a brain study.

By: Zhanna Koiviola
07.11.2022