Burnout and stress-induced illnesses are rising globally due to the pressure of the pandemic, geopolitical instability, and economic uncertainty. Depression and anxiety have increased by 25% worldwide, with the COVID-19 pandemic cited as the primary cause of the escalation of mental illness.
Vietnam has the highest distress rate at 94.5% in Southeast Asia, while Malaysia has seen an increase in suicide rates, and 59.2% of the population have reported depression symptoms, 55.1% are anxious, and 30.6% are stressed. Although these are the highest figures reported in the ASEAN region, surges have also been reported in Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore.
This uptick in emotional distress has pushed some of the mental health startups in Southeast Asia have developed into a position of growth as people reach out to find support, work on their well-being and take control of their mental health.
Mental health apps in Southeast Asia: Can they help?
With a mission of “making mental health support radically more accessible, preventative and relatable, and stigma-free”, Intellect has built a self-care app that encourages users to take care of their mental health. It offers skill-building programmes supported by certified behavioural health coaches, as well as 24 hour access to licenced psychologists and clinical care professionals.
The Singapore-based company is reaching out to help people all over the APAC region, and it has recently doubled its Series A funding to USD $20 million to support this expansion. Following a USD $10 million in the Series A funding round from HOF Capital, the round was extended, bringing in an additional USD $10 million from backers including Tiger Global, JAFCO Asia, Singtel Innov8, and Insignia Ventures Partners. HOF Capital also contributed more to the coffers in the extension, demonstrating its confidence in the startup.
Since the onset of the pandemic, many companies have had to rethink their employee structures and develop work-from-home plans. The shift to remote working and increased number of people losing their jobs has led many employees to enroll in training or coaching courses in order to remain employable. CoachHub helps to bridge this gap by offering training and coaching.
As the global digital coaching platform strives to expand its reach, develop new markets and offer new services, it has raised USD $200 million to aid it on this upward trajectory. The June 2022 financing has come from Series C funding, with Belgian-based Sofina and SoftBank leading the way. This latest injection of capital, together with the USD $80 million it raised in late 2021 and previous funding, brings the startup’s financing up to $330 million USD since its formation three years ago.
ThoughtFull is a chat-based app for those experiencing mental health issues. It was developed in Singapore and has an office in Malaysia. It promotes their emotional wellness by encouraging users to interact daily for tips and bite-sized coaching, as well as to reach out for help if needed. The app aims to “build resilience on-the-go” through its subscription model.
In October 2021, the startup secured funding in the sum of USD $1.1 million to continue to develop its offerings and expand to new markets. Contributors to the seed round were The Hive SEA, Flybridge, Vulpes Investment Management, and various angel investors.
More and more companies are beginning to realise the value of adding wellness programmes to their employee perks as they notice the stress levels amongst staff escalating during these difficult times. Enter Ami, an Indonesian and Singaporean offering collaborating with other companies to help alleviate the pressure on workers and ease mental stress.
The startup offers access to free coaching and support to employees in need, fully covered by their company employer. Ami received USD $1 million seed funding from January Capital, a Singaporean investment firm, along with Goodwater Capital, Collaborative Capital, and Strong Ventures in early 2022. Then, in May 2022, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, through its New Product Experimentation (NPE) team, added USD $3 million in further seed funding.
Healthtech startup Ordinary Folk covers a wide gamut of health issues in its app, including mental well-being. Through its Noah (for men) and Zoey (for women) apps, it offers gender-based services catering to the welfare of its users.
To continue to grow and offer support and information through its easy-to-use platform, Ordinary Folk has recently received USD $5 million in pre-Series A funding led by Monk Hill Ventures.
With Venture Capital firms already investing almost as much in Southeast Asia and India in the first quarter of 2022 as they did in the entire year before, the outlook for the mental health startups in Southeast Asia is developing looks prosperous. As companies in the healthtech field become the focus of many VCs, there is much potential for the growth of startups dealing with mental health and well-being in the region.