The Berlin-based startup Selfapy has developed an online therapy program. Without waiting times, those affected with depression can get help. With this idea even health insurance companies are likely to be interested.
Approximately every 53 minutes, someone in Germany takes their life. Approximately every four minutes someone tries. The cause is often depression or another mental illness – curable in most cases. For a long time helplines have been trying to offer quick help to those affected without bureaucratic hurdles.
The Federal Statistical Office suggests that around four million people in Germany are affected by a depressive disorder, but only a third seeks professional help and it takes an average of eleven months until someone seeks assistance. In addition, therapy appointments in Germany are difficult to obtain. Whoever is not in acute danger and comes to an emergency room has to wait an average of five months for a spot in therapy.
Two psychologists from Berlin have launched their startup, Selfapy, aiming to facilitate access to professional help. “We want to digitize psychotherapy and so bridge the long waiting times for treatment courses,” says Nora Blum, one of the founders of Selfapy. But they don’t want to overrun classic therapy, at least for now, because especially for those who are socially isolated by their mental illness, direct contact with a therapist is important. Nevertheless Nora Blum and Kati Bermbach believe that depression could be cured in the future with the help of online therapy.
The online therapy course the two have developed with experienced psychologists consists of nine modules. The users are asked questions like: “Do you ever feel worthless?”, “What does it mean to be worthless?”, “Can one be valuable or not valuable?”. This questioning can help minimize negative thoughts. In addition to the questions, each participant can have a 45-minute call with a trained psychologist. The online course costs 125 Euro now but this will increase to 500 euro eventually. The founders want to ensure that health insurance companies cover these costs but the effectiveness of the course must still be proved scientifically.
So far, the two financed the startup through a small investment by Mavericks Founders and are planning a larger round of financing. The concept should be of great interest to insurance companies. For regular therapy, treatment costs an average of 6,000 Euros. Overall,
Overall, according to the TK-Depression-Atlas production losses as a result of depression sum up to some four billion euros in Germany. Selfapy’s offer could therefore have a significant economic and social impact; many sufferers could be helped early on – before the depression becomes chronic.
Since the 50’s there have been various forms of helplines which were first launched by churches. Later on the concept of helplines were adopted by other organizations and NGOs. In 1995 the first helplines were also available on the web. More and more sites are now offering help via chat and email. There are special offers for children, young people, students or pensioners. Selfapy is the next logical step of digitization of psychotherapy.
Even with other mental illnesses online therapies like those made possible by Selfapy can help. Young entrepreneurs, like the founders of Moodpath, MeinSigmund, Jourvie or IPSO have recognized that the digitization of psychotherapy and diagnosis is a gap in the market.
This article was first published on Gründerszene.