Audrey Maximillian Herli had witnessed how his friends’ bravery in sharing their personal stories and problems on social media, was met with bullying. There was no compelling justification for him to tolerate such bullying to spread.
The widespread use of social media has allowed people to share their personal stories and experiences online, which can sometimes lead to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a global issue that occurs when individuals harass, intimidate, or threaten others through digital platforms, such as social media, messaging apps, or online forums.
In Indonesia, bullying and cyberbullying have been widely reported. A 2019 study conducted by Polling Indonesia in collaboration with the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association (APJII) highlighted that 49% of Indonesian internet users had experienced bullying on social media.
The phenomenon has encouraged Maxi – his nickname– to solve the problem. As an IT student at Airlangga University, Surabaya, in 2015, he decided to provide a counseling service on campus, so students could share and express their feelings and be listened to.
He specifically looked for psychology students who could listen to anyone who raised concerns and provided feedback on emotional difficulties in a casual setting. He set up an app to facilitate this service and let his schoolmates use it for free.
Soon after, he joined a local incubator program hosted by the local city government and an accelerator, which made him discover that he could turn his vision into a long-term business. At the end of 2015, Maxi and his brother, Audy Christopher Herli, evolved the idea into Riliv, a startup offering counseling and mental wellness services. Then in 2022, Riliv raised funding led by East Ventures.
Years after, several factors pushed the rise of mental health awareness. First, the COVID-19 pandemic has carried people to experience anxiety, depression, trauma, or other psychological syndromes. Another is the rise of education and wealth in Indonesia, which increased awareness of mental health in Indonesia and destigmatized mental illness over time. These figures play a pivotal role in helping shape the market’s readiness to normalize the adoption of mental health services.
Post the pandemic, Maxi revealed the demand for online consultation had surged enormously, up to 800%.
“More people are aware of the importance of mental health and feel it improves their quality of life, both physically and mentally. Additionally, they have already experienced and felt comfortable with online consultation. Hence, the preference for the online system is still here,” said Maxi.
As of March 2023, over 900,000 people across Indonesia have downloaded the Riliv app, and more than 100 professional psychologists partner with Riliv to solve users’ problems. There are three favorite Riliv’s features, such as Counseling, Journal, and Meditation, for individual users and corporate employees.
(Click here to see the interactive chart)
Cities in Java island, including West Java, DKI Jakarta, East Java, and Central Java, have become the top cities regarding Riliv’s penetration. Aligned with the East Ventures – Digital Competitiveness Index (EV-DCI) 2023, Jakarta and West Java remained the first and second-ranked provinces with a significant increase in ICT Usage and ICT Expenditure boosted people to use digital and spend more on ICT tools. Meanwhile, Central Java ranked 4th in Riliv’s penetration and 6th in EV-DCI 2023’s score, driven by the ICT Usage and ICT Expenditure pillar. Both pillars have brought Central Java to jump eight ranks, in terms of digital competitiveness, from last year. The increased ICT Usage and Expenditure pillars in each province indirectly boost the adoption of digital startups, including mental health startups like Riliv.
Breaking mental health barriers, fostering collaboration
As mental health awareness increases, so do mental health problems. However, medical and psychological facilities remain insufficient to handle the growing demand. According to the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia (MoH), only 50% of the 10,321 Community Health Centers (Puskesmas) currently offer mental health services. In addition, four provinces still lack mental health services, and only 40% of public hospitals have the necessary facilities.
Regarding psychiatrist availability, the ratio in Indonesia is highly disproportionate, with one psychiatrist serving approximately 227,000 individuals. This falls significantly short of the ideal ratio recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggests one psychiatrist per 30,000 people. Moreover, the distribution of psychiatrists is heavily concentrated in Java island cities, resulting in uneven access to mental health services across the country.
To strengthen the mental health network in Indonesia, the government encourages collaboration between the government, local administrators, universities, private institutions, professional organizations, communities, and other startups to develop an integrated approach to mental health efforts. EV-DCI 2023 also suggests this collaboration to achieve equitable healthcare access across Indonesia.
Integrating data and services between conventional and digital healthcare startups also can be a way to create a better Indonesian healthcare ecosystem. It can bring an opportunity to develop a digital-based product, such as IoT and AI-based preventive medical activity products. The most important thing is that collaboration will make healthcare more accessible for big cities and those living in the 2nd and 3rd tier areas. This applies to mental health startups, conventional healthcare centers, psychiatrists’ associations, and communities.
“East Ventures has supported several promising mental health startups because we are always looking to create a positive impact, including Riliv, as we believe mental health is as important as physical health. Through digitalization and technology, we expect increased accessibility to healthcare services in every province and city, which may not have been accommodated offline. EV-DCI 2023 has several recommendations for healthcare stakeholders to maximize opportunities in this industry so that we can foster the collaboration to build a stronger and more resilient healthcare ecosystem,” said David Fernando Audy, Operating Partner at East Ventures.
Maxi also appreciates the government’s efforts to promote public awareness regarding mental health in Indonesia. He emphasized that Riliv is fully aligned with the government’s initiatives and is opened to collaborating with various stakeholders to expand the dissemination of information and knowledge related to mental health in Indonesia to reach a wider audience.
“We dream that all Indonesians must be mentally healthy. We always hope Indonesians will regard mental health as physical health, and there will be no more stigma that people who consult psychologists are weird or crazy. It would be great if there were more understanding of people with mental health problems so that more people can be happy and live a meaningful life for themselves and their surroundings,” said Maxi.
The EV-DCI 2023 report can be downloaded at east.vc/DCI.