FIVE FROM FINLAND: Mental health and wellbeing
With mental health issues becoming more pressing than ever before amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. In fact, one in four people are affected by mental health problems, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns, social distancing and radical lifestyle changes have been a major source of stress and anxiety for millions of people around the globe, resulting in surging demand for mental healthcare and counselling. The pandemic, however, has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in many countries and escalated mental health issues globally.
Below are five Finnish companies on a mission to support mental health and wellbeing with their innovative solutions.
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.
Particularly active in the US market, Meru Health’s programme has seen a handful of deployments there. In 2017, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) looked to Meru Health as a solution to prevent burnout and depression among physicians. Earlier this year, Meru Health partnered 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. In May this year, the company raised 8.1 million US dollars (approx. 7.5 million euros) and was boosted by a 4.2 million-euro investment in 2019.
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 business 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 is strengthening its international presence, and its service packages can now be purchased in 12 different languages.
“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 remove the stigma that unfortunately can still surround seeking therapy.”
This meaningful Finnish brand raises awareness about mental health and wellbeing through heart-warming illustrations of animal characters complete with feel-good texts and phrases. The concept was developed by illustrator and graphic designer Matti Pikkujämsä and psychotherapists Elina Rehmonen and 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, such as T-shirts, mugs, posters, notebooks and bags. Moreover, CupOfTherapy is involved in various charitable projects and claims to donate part of its sales revenue to mental health work.
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 Japan, China and Korea, and North America.
“Our aim is to normalise mental health and wellbeing as well as lower the threshold of talking about sensitive issues,” Rehmonen pointed out. “Each drawing evokes different reactions in different people […] A feeling always carries a message we should listen to. If you never stop to wonder where the emotion stems from, you won’t know what’s holding back your happiness.”
With its ground-breaking 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. 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 Finnish innovation to help their employees to shake off work-related stress and fully recharge during breaks.
With its dynamic treatment monitoring software, this Tampere-based healthtech startup has created a much-needed digital connection between patients suffering from depression and healthcare professionals. Since its foundation in 2019, the company has made substantial progress and has been actively involved in a few promising pilots and projects.
The software developed by Medified was featured in a novel solution for monitoring depressed patients’ mood and supporting their recovery trialled in the City of Oulu’s healthcare services last spring. The solution, called Mielipäiväkirja, is a mobile application for patients and a cloud-based application for healthcare professionals. Using the app, patients can get realistic information about their mental wellbeing and learn to identify their different moods, while doctors and nurses can monitor their patients’ wellbeing remotely in between appointments.
In June, Medified was listed among the first 11 startup companies chosen for Health Incubator Helsinki, a comprehensive long-term incubator programme for research-based teams and startups operating in the health sector in Finland and abroad.
“Medified focuses on creating value for both professionals and patients instead of only focusing on the patient app,” co-founder Valtteri Korkiakoski said in an interview with Health Capital Helsinki. “With the help of our solution, professionals can make better treatment decisions and therefore help patients.”
Text: Zhanna Koiviola
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