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Theodoric Chew, Co-founder & CEO of Intellect
East Ventures

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25 August, 2022

From Portfolios

How mental health startup Intellect’s founder catalysed his personal battle with anxiety

Intellect’s top aim is to expand so that they can broaden the company’s product offerings to include self-care programmes, live coaching, counseling, and crisis management services

As someone who battled anxiety from an early age, Theodric Chew has long realised the importance of therapy. However, he has been aware of the innate stigma around mental health awareness that deters patients from seeking help. 

Chew, a techie at heart, wanted to change this scenario and decided to conflate his personal experience and knowledge of the tech industry to build a startup providing better mental health care for all. 

That was the beginning of Intellect.

“I saw firsthand the benefits of therapy and proper mental health care, including the gaps in struggles and problems in healthcare. In Asia, even in Singapore, people need care. But due to the stigma attached to mental illness, people don’t seek help. In turn, it causes an issue in how things are run,” added Chew.

“That’s why I started Intellect — to tackle a problem I faced and know that most people in the world also experience or can deeply relate to,” added he, who founded his first startup at 19 and has headed the marketing teams at several startups in the past.

Founded in Singapore in 2019, Intellect aims to make mental healthcare and wellbeing support accessible for everyone. It helps people access an end-to-end solution for all mental health-related needs, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy techniques, besides assisting companies in supporting their employees’ mental health.

The firm intends to level up its product offerings to include the whole spectrum of mental health care, ranging from self-care to live counselling and coaching to crisis management. 

It aims to not only create a self-care app or a marketplace for therapists but also focus on connecting the dots at all levels of mental health support that anyone may need. The objective is to provide people with the necessary tools to take control of their mental health.

Intellect serves over three million lives and covers 14 languages across 20+ countries. 

Mental health has been a peripheral issue in emerging markets for a long time, despite the severe impact not only on those directly affected but also on families and careers, as well as on social cohesion and economic development.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally, 264 million people suffer from depression, with many of these also suffering from anxiety symptoms. About 450 million people experience mental or neurological disorders worldwide.

The situation in Asia is no better. The state of mental health in the continent has been troubling for many years. Across Asia, a growing percentage of the adult population experiences a diagnosable mental illness in any given year: from four per cent (reported in Singapore) to 20 per cent (reported in Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia). Vital factors such as low mental health literacy and lack of human and financial resources are the main causes for people to neglect seeking help when they need it most.

The pandemic has boosted the demand for mental health support in the last two years. According to the World Health Organisation, new depressive and anxiety disorder diagnoses spiked 400 per cent in 2021. However, over the past few years,  many entrepreneurs have identified this space as a high potential area for growth and have come up with various solutions.

Since the beginning, Intellect has prioritised providing individuals with the requisite information, awareness, and support they need. However, it has been challenging to communicate with people where they can find the tools and support they require for the issues they encounter in life. Therefore, mental health is a crucial issue that needs to be tackled in many Asian markets.

“Existing mental health benefits and mental healthcare systems are under-equipped to service this surging need at scale,” stated Chew. “Intellect goes beyond supporting workforces, going deeper into our broader vision of building an entirely new mental healthcare system tailored specifically for Asia.”

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Original article on e27, 23 August 2022.