The app makes it easy for clients to reach out immediately.
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Mental health awareness has been increasing in Malaysia, and while general consensus agrees that mental health is important, there are still barriers to overcome before many actually seek professional help.
Most find it hard to justify a high price tag for an hour “of talking”, the hassle of putting aside large chunks of time for counselling, and the stigma of seeing a mental health professional. Many people can still “function normally” in society and view the need for therapy as a personal failure.
But if therapy was accessible discreetly with the promise of privacy and the ease of texting your friends, would it still be as difficult to seek help?
Meet Joan Low, the woman warrior determined to close the mental healthcare system gap
Joan Low has been a mental health caregiver for the past 20 years, and have spent a good portion of her years living, studying, and working in North American, Europe, North Asia, and Southeast Asia.
Her experience showed her the vast gaps in the traditional mental healthcare system here in Southeast Asia, especially when compared to the US which has been at the forefront of mental health innovations.
Which is why Joan returned here to bridge the innovation gap and contribute back to our society with ThoughtFull, a digital mental health startup.
According to Joan, the landscape in Southeast Asia has changed dramatically in the past year during the pandemic, as the dialogue has shifted from mental health awareness to taking action. With it was a surge in awareness and demand for mental health services.
Easy accessibility to mental health support
Joan Low aims to make mental health support accessible to everyone. Her app, ThoughtFullChat, allows users to connect with certified mental health professionals such as trained counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists.
Individuals can discreetly download the app, signup using a pseudonym, get matched to a best-fit mental health coach via our algorithms, and directly work 1-on-1 with mental health coach.Joan Low to TRP
Unlike traditional mental health apps that connect you to meet with a therapist in a physical space, ThoughtFullApp offers the digital experience with privacy and ease of accessiblity in mind.
Joan notes that users of the chatting app are more free to open up without the worry of being seen and their communication isn’t bound by time constraints. They can send a text or audio message in real-time on a thought or a feeling immediately to their mental health coach without having to wait until the next appointed time.
However, Joan also cautions that the chat-based coaching is not suitable for all situations, but is a good avenue to explore mental health for those who would not have been as comfortable opening up in a traditional setting.
How mental health impacts everyone
It’s easy to talk about mental health in general with big, vague words that encompasses everyone. But just like how everyone has different circumstances, each person also faces different problems.
For women, the link between hormonal health and mental link is very often overlooked. Biological hormonal fluctuations, even during our monthly menstruation, can impact moods, emotions, focus, and mental wellbeing.
How one feels is often brushed off as “it is that time of month”, but if it affects one’s normal routine, it should not be ignored and proactive steps can be taken to address it.Joan Low to TRP
For men, childhood conditioning, pressure to appear masculine, and fear of looking weak or vulnerable mean that they seek support less compared to women. While both men and women can turn to suicide, the horrific truth is that more men succeed at committing suicide – accounting for 3.5 times the number of suicides as women.
Long-term healthy mental state of mind
Joan notes that good mental health requires constantly cultivating daily habits.
Just like how physical health requires consistent effort, such as exercising at least three times a week to avoid obesity and health issues, mental fitness requires similar consistency through sharpening your awareness of self and understanding what drives your decision-making behaviours to course-correct as you go.
It’s a daunting process that might be difficult for people to start on their own with no guidance. Still, maybe if we all had a mental health professional we could text for help, maybe it would be a smoother journey for everyone.
The Rakyat Post is partnering with leading Malaysian mental health NGOs & Social Enterprises to fundraise for Malaysia’s first Community Mental Health Fund. Donate to this cause and be rewarded with e-mental health info pack, one-month trial of Thoughtfull & Naluri app or art therapy for disabled children. Go here to donate or volunteer now https://reward.pitchin.my/projects/community-mental-health-fund #MYMinda
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.