Intellect has a pivotal role in shaping this momentum for mental health care in Singapore and other Asian markets. We share learnings from their journey

Intellect CEO and founder Theodoric Chew at Intellect HQ in Singapore

5 Things We Learned About Driving Mental Health Care Awareness and Adoption in Singapore and Beyond

Intellect has a pivotal role in shaping this momentum for mental health care in Singapore and other Asian markets. We share learnings from their journey

It’s been nearly five years since Theodoric Chew started Intellect, born out of his own experiences grappling with his mental health, and the lack of care available to him at the time.

“It’s a much-needed solution, but very taboo and stigmatized,” as he shared in our podcast back in 2021, fresh off Insignia Ventures’ first investment in the company.

In October 2023, the Singapore government announced the National Mental Health and Well Being Strategy encompassing various aspects of society, from education to healthcare and even the country’s National Service.

This was followed through in the past week by a motion passed by the Singapore parliament to advance mental health care as a key priority for the country, built on the articulated new “Singaporean Dream”: care, community, and capacity.

Mental health care has certainly come a long way but there’s still more work to be done. With more than 3 million users and hundreds of MNC and institutional partners (like, the Singapore government (all agencies), Great Eastern insurance, etc.)  Intellect has a pivotal role in shaping this momentum for mental health care in Singapore and other Asian markets. We share learnings from their journey:

(1) As much as a mental health care app can lower costs and barriers to initial care, face-to-face intervention cannot be replaced. Capacities and infrastructure need to be built to cover the full breadth of health care needs. 

“My belief is that the truest format is in-person, where you can sit down with an actual practitioner and get the full experience. That’s the most immersive and that’s the most beneficial. But with that, there are limitations of scale, access, and cost as well. We’re trying to solve for access to scale, to millions of people, but retaining as much of the outcomes, the efficacy that we can do. With our research, we’ve really driven as close to, if not on par efficacy with face-to-face inventions at the scalable rate…”, Theo shares in another 2021 podcast with us (later that year).

To that end, Intellect has been growing its network of on-the-ground therapists and health centers across Asia.

“Now we are live in 11 languages. We have therapists on-the-ground in twelve countries across APAC. The goal is not just English-speaking markets, but anywhere in Asia that needs access to care where a lot of our clients have a presence,” Theo continues in the same podcast.

(2) Democratizing capacity sets the stage for wider adoption of care. Normalizing and educating conversations around mental health has been important for Intellect to push for greater adoption of care in workplaces and communities. This democratization has been most concrete in becoming the only licensed provider of Mental Health First Aid in Singapore (MFHA) — education that is open to anyone! Find out more about MHFA and the availability of our upcoming public courses.

(3) The goal is to serve the entire spectrum of care. From the very beginning, the goal for Intellect was to cover all levels of mental health needs, as Theo describes in the first 2021 podcast.

“…we are doing an end-to-end mental health care system. We start in the very first step that people take on their journeys in mental wellbeing, meaning the self-care programs, and then we funnel them towards the higher step care that they need, wherever they need to. For example, if someone needs, say working with a live counselor or coach, they can get help. If they need more crisis management care, we can connect them there as well. So we are coming for the whole spectrum of needs…”

Intellect’s solutions range from self-care bite-sized sessions (for healthy and preventive needs), virtual and in-person coaching, counseling, and psychotherapy services (for moderate to high stress states), to 24/7 helpline, critical incident stress management, and psychiatric services (for severe and clinical needs).

This spectrum runs parallel to Singapore’s National Mental Health and Well Being Strategy, as Intellect’s VP Partnerships & Solutions Cassandra Loh breaks down in this post.

Covering the entire spectrum of care does not just refer to the severity of needs, but also the nature and context of these needs — be it for the youth or elderly, or even public service workers like firefighters and soldiers.

(4) Standards and benchmarks move the industry forward. Intellect’s data-driven and science-based approach has not only allowed them to ensure the clinical efficacy of their services and offerings, or the monetary ROI of their employee well-being programs for business (to learn more about calculating the ROI of employee well-being programs, download their guide), but also create benchmarks across industries and countries.

They recently announced their soon-to-be-released Dimensions Benchmarking Report, with a dataset from over 50,000 users examining the mental health of employees and enabling employers and HR departments to have a better view of how their organization is doing comparatively. Find out how you can get a copy of the report.

(5) Going beyond Singapore. With services available across 22 countries worldwide, active users from all over the globe, and more than 300K lives covered by their employee well being programs, Intellect has been making a mark in the way mental health care is accessed and delivered beyond Singapore.

Regardless of the geography, partnerships have always been needle moving in this mission, whether with research institutions (NUS), insurers, MNCs (MSD), healthcare providers (IHH Healthcare), or governments (Singapore), organizational impetus is necessary for individual impact to become meaningful at scale.

This thinking is also embedded in Intellect’s business model, where services are delivered at the individual level but sold and reap impact on the organizational level as well (going back to ROI).

“Our goal is to work with the largest employers and the largest insurers…we have built a repeatable playbook where we partner with local professionals, local translators, and a lot of QA and vetting processes to make sure that what we’ve built is not just translated, but actually very contextualized and evidence-based in what we do as well,” Theo shares in a 2022 podcast.

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Paulo Joquiño is a writer and content producer for tech companies, and co-author of the book Navigating ASEANnovation. He is currently Editor of Insignia Business Review, the official publication of Insignia Ventures Partners, and senior content strategist for the venture capital firm, where he started right after graduation. As a university student, he took up multiple work opportunities in content and marketing for startups in Asia. These included interning as an associate at G3 Partners, a Seoul-based marketing agency for tech startups, running tech community engagements at coworking space and business community, ASPACE Philippines, and interning at workspace marketplace FlySpaces. He graduated with a BS Management Engineering at Ateneo de Manila University in 2019.