Originally appeared in Smart Company, December, 2015.
Professional mental health advice is now only a text message away thanks to new tool, ConnectMe by HealthShare.
The platform is the latest initiative from HealthShare, the startup also responsible for the health advice site of the same name and fitting out doctors’ computers with 1,000s of medical fact sheets.
People can use ConnectMe by HealthShare to text message trained mental health professionals like psychologists or counsellors for assistance with troubles such as depression, anxiety and stress.
HealthShare CEO Rami Weiss says text messaging is a time-efficient way to reach out for help.
This means the tool has been popular among time-poor business people and even new mothers whose concerns can be addressed quickly without the booking an expensive appointment.
“A mother can send off a text while breastfeeding her baby at 2am in the morning and the next day a psychologist can provide her with feedback,” Weiss tells StartupSmart.
And while text messaging might sound like an impersonal way to treat a mental health condition, Weiss says ConnectMe by HealthShare is not trying to replace traditional services.
Instead, it’s facilitating a discussion that might otherwise be difficult for a patient to start.
While it is estimated that more than 3.6 million Australians experience mental health issues each year, only 35% of those diagnosed with a mental illness access services to manage their condition.
Weiss says is because there is still a stigma attached to mental illness.
ConnectMe by HealthShare offers its users a way to reach out for help without shame or embarrassment, something he says there’s a particular need for in regional Australia.
“In a small town, you might not be comfortable to see a psych, because you’re worried about who else will find out,” he says.
He also says the experience of writing down their troubles might also be therapeutic to many users.
“When people actually write down what’s on their mind, it gives them something to look back at and makes them more accountable to their health outcomes,” he says.
Weiss also says trained and vetted staff are prepared to deal with emergency situations.
There’s tabs built into every stage of the tool which can connect users to Lifeline, as well as a feature that allows health professionals working with a client to get in touch with next of kin in cases of emergency.
But Weiss understands ConnectMe by HealthShare is not a cure-all, saying in some circumstances, people must see a professional face-to-face in order to be prescribed medication.
“There’s never one solution that fits everything,” he says.
“It’s all about providing people with as many different options as possible.”