Tackling the mental health divide: Meet the entrepreneurs making therapy accessible

Ruth Coustick-Deal

External Affairs Lead

19th June 2019



An app that tackles gambling addictions, mental health learning for school governors, and affordable talking therapy. These are a few of the 150 business ideas that we gave early stage grants and support to this quarter.

There are a rich variety of concepts and inspiring people every time, using social purpose business to transform society. This quarter’s cohort was no exception.  

What stood out to us was the many social entrepreneurs specifically responding to cuts to mental health services across the UK, with their own expert solutions. Sadly, many people are left out of necessary mental health services. NHS provision suffers from over demand, and private services are prohibitively expensive for many. According to the Guardian, “the number of mental health nurses has fallen by more than 6,000 over the decade.” However, each of the below have found a specific area in which they can make a transformative difference to this issue.

Bet on Me, Sheffield. 

Tejus Patel, Minal Jain, Akshay Kumar and Adil Nayeem, the team working on the Bet on Me app

Social entrepreneur Tejus Patel, along with business partners Minal Jain, Akshay Kumar and Adil Nayeem are building a mobile health app to tackle gambling addiction. The app puts an accessible form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) into people’s hands. It is a widely used treatment for gambling addiction that empowers individuals to manage their problems by focusing on how thoughts and feelings influence a person’s behaviour. The Bet On Me app guides people through a structured six session programme consisting of animations, audio and interactive exercises. As well as utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to personalise the treatment plan. Tejus and the team have partnered with specialists in the field and local problem gamblers to ensure their app is research-based and meets user needs. 

Minds Ahead, London  

Head shot of social entrepreneur Dean Johnstone

Child mental health issues have been prominent in the news recently as more children are seeking help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs). According to the BBC, that number has more than doubled over the past two years, though in part this is due to greater awareness of symptoms amongst young people. Dean’s Johnstone venture, Minds Ahead, is directly addressing this issue, by working with schools to ensure UK education establishments are world leaders in mental health, via several different programmes. In the 14 months since its launch, Dean has co-founded the UK’s first centre for school mental health in partnership with Leeds Beckett University and is currently writing the UK’s first Masters in School Leadership of mental health and wellbeing.  

With a background as Head of Learning at mental health charity Place2Be, and former Associate Director at Teach First, his experience enables him to have deep insights into the issues, and the education system. Their early work is already very impressive: Minds Ahead also offer an e-learning module for school governors, a schools mental health award, development of a schools-based mental health specialist role, and a framework for schools to measure their current processes. They have had an impressive 650+ teachers and school leaders have attending programmes.

TalkAid, Edinburgh  

The provision and access to counselling in the UK is scant, restricted, inaccessible, and often inconvenient – critically talking therapy is just too expensive. Emma-Jane Cross is taking on the issue of the lack of affordability for therapy with her venture - she wants to see it made normal and accessible for everyone. TalkAid is a comprehensive Public Mental Health Model delivering talking therapy to children, families, workplaces and the community in Scotland. They do this by providing immediate, safe, expert and cost-effective Group Therapy, in communities, GP surgeries, in colleges and universities and online. These will be done as £10 a session, locally based, thematic therapy groups. For online therapy they are currently developing a wrap-around TalkAid app.

Other social ventures include

  • Asheena Clarke who is teaching yoga to homeless people at local community centres in Dudley, offering a place of calm.
  • Rachel Parkinson in Manchester who will also be running events for homeless mental health support
  • Melanie Costas’ Save Our Mental Health' venture which directly addresses the rural vs urban inequity in mental health support. She is creating a mobile mental health unit across Dorset, partnering with Mind and previous UnLtd award winner Samee
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