The Virtual Psychiatrist
How does MyMind work to address mental health issues?
K. F. : In Ireland, the handling of people suffering from mental health issues is insufficient. I launched MyMind in 2006 to make psychiatry accessible to all. To achieve this, our organization bypasses the classical care pathway, reducing waiting lists and bringing down high consultation fees. We have four clinics in the country. But in addition to physical appointments, we offer online appointments. Within 72 hours and in several languages, these consultations by videoconference allow us to reach a maximum number of beneficiaries. Technology is central to our social enterprise. It is what enables us to eliminate obstacles such as time, distance and cost. Today, thanks to MyMind, 62,000 sessions have been provided to those in need.
How can you provide an affordable service while remaining financially viable?
K. F. : Actually, our project has come to fill a gap between the public and the private sector. MyMind’s social enterprise model is innovative and transparent. We apply a price scale to our services: people with a full-time job pay the highest fees. The income generated by these sessions allows us to offer lower fees to the unemployed, the retired people and the students. As our organization grows and helps more clients, we are getting close to a balance in the budget.
In what way is access to psychological and psychiatric care unsatisfactory?
K. F. : Mental health problems are among the main causes of illness and handicap in the world. According to the WHO, one in four people will suffer from them at some point in their life. In Ireland, one in five people will suffer from depression, and still the health system hasn’t changed. The allotted budget is insufficient and reserved for extreme cases. As a consequence, an individual with slight to moderate psychiatric troubles has difficulty accessing professional help. It is nonetheless vital to intervene as early as possible if we want to avoid much more serious pathologies! From an economic perspective, the European Union estimates the cost of untreated mental illness in its members states o be between 3 and 4 % of GDP. Tackling depression, anxiety or stress reduces the suicide rate and the number of hospitalizations. It is a way of saving public money and increasing productivity.
How do we fight societies' prejudices to mental health challenges?
K. F. :MyMind normalizes psychiatric care and reduces the stigma around it. We help with the integration of those suffering from mental problems and defend multiculturalism in Ireland, notably because we propose our services in ten languages and give support to ethnic minorities. We do all we can to offer individuals the means to get past the difficulties in their path.
How do you collaborate with other mental health actors?
K. F. : Today, we enjoy a commercial footing and a good reputation with regards to mental health in Ireland. It is important to attach ourselves to existing care services. Wherever we may open centers, we have to establish solid relations with the authorities and the professionals. Furthermore, the Irish government has taken the creation of MyMind quite favorably, and we have received the support of several political leaders.
What challenges do you face?
K. F. : MyMind has a strong potential for growth and we must respond to ever more numerous demands. We not only have to enlarge our existing centers, but also open others to become profitable. We intend to expand our Internet services and to reinforce our team by hiring psychologists and attracting volunteers. However, even if online therapies are in full development, people remain apprehensive of this method in Ireland. In the coming years, we would like for views to change and for more research and financing in this sector. We want to prove that MyMind is effective, in terms of social impact as well as value. Our model is quite flexible and could easily be reproduced in other countries.
By Perrine Massy