How a former model decided to launch an app to tackle mental illness

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Mental health is one of the buzzwords of the moment, especially now Royalty like Prince William and Duchess Katherine have been championing it, along with Kid Cudi, Cara Delevingne and others saying that they would be open to sending their children to counselling.

One in five people have suffered from depression, one in two will suffer some other mental disturbance in their lifetimes. If you haven’t been through a mental health issue, you will likely know someone who has.

After encountering it in amongst those closest to her, former international model Silja Litvin decided to do something about it: “I learned about depression when I was a young teenager: a friend died through suicide, leaving me shocked and determined to fight depression.”

Starting with the knowledge from her own PhD thesis in clinical psychology, it became clear to here that fighting depression with an app could be possible. By “psycho-educating” with a test app she found the symptoms of depression could be significantly reduced. The next step of finding quick and professional help locally could be achieved with a client-therapist matching system in the app.

So she launched PsycApps which does both of the above, and brings therapy to the ultimate comfort-zone: an iOS smartphone app, now launched.

At its essence, PsycApps helps you find out whether you or a loved one is suffering from depression, what to expect if that is the case, how to help them or yourself and how to get professional help fast. “We also lower the 6-week on average search for a therapist down to 20-30 minutes,” says Litvin.

She says the app is anonymous and highly secure, it asks a few demographic questions and then goes straight to the menu. There you can choose between information (what is depression), the screening (3 tests with 1, 7 and 21 questions), the therapeutic features (morning immune-booster: exercises to help activate clients in the morning, CBT exercises, visualisation exercises and positive psychology exercises), ‘find my therapist’ and stats (the outcome of the screening as well as everyday mood tracking).

Once the user/client has gone through the screening he/she will get one of five results showing the probability that they are suffering from depression (no symptoms to high-probability). Directly after the results they are shown a number of tips to self-stabilize and are directed to both the therapeutic features and the ‘find my therapist’ option.

Competitor apps include SAM, The Big White Wall and apps like Headspace and Calm.com.

But Litvin says app developers, especially in the medical industry tend to either be all about the medical space, neglecting UX and UI, or all about marketing, not ensuring evidence based practice. “We go on a journey with our clients, our user experience being non-intrusive and intuitive making the threshold to dealing with mental health issues as small as possible, while ensuring up-to-date psychological care,” she says.

So far the startup has raised £250,000 seed money from Angels but hopes to raise more. Eventually Litvin hopes to take a referral fee from the therapists and later and subscription model for a premium model.

Photo by Photographer Riccardo Lugermad