Intellect, a Singapore-based startup to lower barriers to mental health

by Felicia Calle
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Emotional wellbeing is as important as physical health, but in most places, Asia included the topic is usually stigmatized. Now Intellect plans to make the idea of mental health at least more approachable. They have an app that offers self-guided practices that are based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. 

Intellect develops enterprise and consumer versions of the app, and it already has users in four countries, which includes Singapore, Indonesia, India and China.

Over 10,000 users and ten companies have signed up on Intellect since its beta launch at the beginning of the year, Theodoric Chew, the co-founder, and CEO of the company said. They plan to launch Bahasa and Mandarin versions. They are currently researching how to develop localized versions of the exercises, including rescue sessions, guided journaling, and behavioral exercises with short clips about topics such as sleep issues and emotional burnout, and self-esteem.

In Europe and the United States, there are many self-apps that helps users cope with some mental health issues, including Moodnotes, Sanvello, Happify, and Headspace, among others. In Asia, there haven’t been many apps like that.

Before Chew launched Intellect, he was the head of content marketing and affiliate growth at Voyagin. He became interested in issues to do with mental health because of some things he had experienced.

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“I’ve been to therapy quite a bit for anxiety, and in Asia, there is still a lot of social stigmas, and there aren’t a lot of tools. A lot of work is being done in the US and Europe, but in Asia, it’s still developing,” Chew said.

He added that most people are shy to talk about their mental health, especially in Asia, but when it is framed in other ways like how to work personal problems such as low confidence, people are starting to open up.

Chew insists that Intellect is not a replacement for professional therapy, but a way to give people a way of taking care of their mental health issues, especially in Asia where there is a lot of stigma surrounding the topic. The app can help a person address anxiety and low mode, plus other things, such as handling criticism. 

The enterprise version of Intellect is customizable with exercises that are meant for people in different industries. It is mostly meant for SMEs and startups that do not have effective employee assistance programs that bigger firms have.

A person usually requires paying a monthly flat fee to get access to all the app features, but now Intellect is going to make it free to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, Intellect hopes to develop a way that mental health professionals and users can connect within the app.

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“In three to five years, we want to make therapy commonplace to address everyday problems. We want to tackle more clinical issues as well, but we believe most people can benefit from framing it as a way to tackle everyday issues using CBT-based methods,” Chew told TechCrunch

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