Mentalogue Annual Review 2019

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Annual Review 2019

Founder's Message Clarrise Ng

Coming back home from a stint studying abroad and beginning my first year of work, I was in a bit of a pickle. I had been putting off seeing a therapist in Malaysia for awhile, thinking that I needed to settle into work, test the waters, and was frankly terrified that my employer would react badly to disclosures of mental illness. After awhile, it dawned on me that I had to get it out of the way, else risk spiraling into yet another deep dark hole I couldn’t climb out of until it was too late. Thankfully, the workplace doctor was understanding. My therapist at university had stressed upon me the importance of building a support system back home, and it was high time I did so. Thus began the highly annoying effort of finding a decent therapist here.

I wanted a good one, affordable, and accessible by public transport since I did not have a car. I also didn’t want to be taking Grab rides every single session, the sessions themselves would be expensive enough. I was also unsure about whether therapists I Googled were legitimate or religiously affiliated. I also didn’t know if they could deal with issues of identity or my particularly noxious brand of cynicism. I also didn’t want to keep calling up people and asking for appointments, explaining my life story all over and over again. It was tiring.

Mentalogue began with a very simple question - "How can I find a therapist that works for me?"

So I asked a friend. A friend sent me a WhatsApp message from another friend. That friend had compiled a list of 5 or so centers, with information on pricing, their own experience, and location. It was very useful. I got a therapist. I went. And then I thought, why wasn’t this information already out there? Why was it so hard to organize the fragmented, opaque mental health provision space? Why were people unsure and afraid to seek mental health services, and spread rumours about treatment and those seeking treatment? I realized this was a problem, and we needed a solution.

I also want to be able to know about events and workshops that encourage mindfulness, peace, calm, life. I want it to connect me to others seeking support.

My vision for Mentalogue, a blend of “mental” and “dialogue”, or “catalogue”, is to be able to, through a dedicated portal, look for a mental health service provider near me, easy to get to, and legit. I want it to book my appointment, and not make me exhausted by trying to call up multiple people and schedule appointments I simply don’t have the energy to get to.

Eventually, I want to build a culture of wellness. This would include a sense of community, and seeking professional therapy as one of the options. We aren’t selling a particular service, we provide that service, but what we are selling is taking control of your own wellness and putting it in the hands of the client, you. This is what I want for Mentalogue. This is what I want for everyone.

I want Mentalogue to make life more accessible, understanding, and equitable. To build a lifestyle of wellbeing.

Team So who’s doing this with me? I would like to introduce you to Melinda Lee. Melinda is an extraordinary idea powerhouse, marketing guru, and also unapologetically passionate about quality, equitable mental health service provision. Thank you, Melinda, for doing what you do. I would also like to introduce you to Patrick Chong, for sticking with the idea from the very beginning, being as excellent a developer as any venture could have, and for staying sharp throughout our many airy ideas. Thank you, Patrick, for doing what you do as well. So now it comes down to you. All of us. Who have had our very own unique experiences with mental wellness, or the lack thereof. What do you want for mental health? How can we make that work together? Who’s with us?

Mission and Vision Our immediate mission is to increase accessibility to quality mental healthcare for all in Malaysia. Our immediate vision is that anyone in need of mental healthcare can find a suitable and qualified provider within minutes of searching.


Goals Mentalogue started out as


A technological solution to a wicked problem. We now look at ourselves as


A nexus - a point of connection between the various nodes of society as it interacts with mental health. i. First, empowering members of the public who are not mental health professionals - this includes individuals and organizations. ii. Second, holding space for providers and practitioners of mental health services. iii. Third, encouraging employers to build a resilient workforce. iv. Fourth, supporting government and policymakers.

We are a point of synergy between these groups, bringing together people for a common goal. Mentalogue has the immense potential to initiate and execute social change in an actionable way - bringing the fragmented pieces of the mental health ecosystem together. Mental health as it is, never operates in a silo. It affects everyone from every walk of life. Our approach to this initiative therefore, reflects this.

The Challenge

30% 80% 9.5 of Malaysians currently have some form of mental illness

seek help through the Internet, but don't find streamlined information


people need to know if treatment is affordable, suitable, and legitimate

Business Mentalogue is a social enterprise. We wanted to do this for free, imagine that! Us broke, hardly earning, barely out of university and quite idealistic -thinking that developing a full-blown, well-run digital platform and keeping it maintained and constantly improving would be simple. Well, after a while, it dawned on us that we couldn’t do this for free, and would need a revenue model. Hence, the idea of a social enterprise coupled with a non-profit arm brewed into existence.

The social enterprise would be able to perform transactions with for-profit entities, run revenue-generating events and workshops, as well as charge for our proprietary services and software. The non-profit arm would be able to conduct outreach and awareness events, policy advocacy, and create impact via philanthropic activities. This meant that things were a great deal more complicated, but also very exciting.

Finance Bootstrapping, fellowships and donors. In the beginning, we pretty much forked out our own money to register the organization as a non-profit social enterprise, put down a deposit for the bank account, buy our domain name, and put up some Facebook ads for our surveys. We also strove to register as a society in Malaysia under the Registrar of Societies, so that we would be able to apply for non-profit grants and find pro-bono talent to support the development of the discovery platform.

Our Co-Founder, Patrick was also the recipient of the Optimize Fellowship which gave us some comfort that it could be used to potentially hire talent to build the platform. Running our first ever workshop, we had a generous donor. Through their donation, we were able to subsidize the cost of tickets for all of our 35 participants, give out 6 fully sponsored tickets, provide 9 full scholarships and 5 partial scholarships.

In 2020, we will Work to validate our social enterprise model by funding our operations through our own revenue-generating means. Proceeds from revenue will be used to fund the ongoing development and upkeep of our digital platform, as well as increase access to mental healthcare services for various segments of the population.


Outreach By having conversations, we learned a great deal about people's needs. The suicide prevention training event for members of the public was very fruitful. For this, we have Sedunia Malaysia to thank for hosting us and allowing us to use their volunteer recruitment platform. We learned about organizing an event that involved many different people coming in with different levels of mental health literacy -- from practicing counsellors, counsellors-in-training, to moms and friends of persons living with mental illness. It also taught us about the different needs of the community. Through this event, we met Counsellors who told us about the dire need for more high-quality, affordable training resources; Counsellors who wanted to provide training but had difficulties finding the space and time to do so; Organizations that needed to be more mental health literate in order to serve their clients, stakeholders, and care for their human capital better; Caregivers who were struggling to help others while helping themselves; Young professionals who were burnt out; and so much more.

In 2020, we will Work with skilled and experienced practitioners to provide training for existing counsellors, giving them the space and chance to share their knowledge with others; Empower organizations with mental health literacy training; Carry out workshops for the public including caregivers and young professionals.


Through our conversations and surveys with mental health service providers, centers, and individual practitioners, we realized that People were graduating with a psychology degree but not able to further their practice as therapists, instead ended up in HR, marketing, or the likes for lack of jobs; Practitioners wanted to help people in their community who are struggling with mental health challenges but did not have a suitable space to do so; Practitioners wanted to operate counselling services outside of normal working hours, and clients needed appointments after working hours as well; Centers were struggling to deal with high volume of clients coming in through multiple channels including social media, email, calls, and websites, and managing multiple doctors in their centers; Practitioners were willing to provide online or tele-counselling services, but did not know how to market their services; Mental health services were concentrated in urban centers, rendering rural and suburban folks neglected; and so much more.

In 2020, we will Work with space providers and community managers to utilize spaces, map them and connect them to freelancing counsellors; Create a user-management feature in our digital platform for mental health service providers; Add a tele-counselling option for practitioners willing to provide online services and outreach to rural and suburban populations.


We also met up with stakeholders in higher spaces to gauge their response to our ideas, and our chats included Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia, in the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development; through which we recognized the different types of registered counsellors, the challenge of integrating all of them onto the platform, and their mixed qualifications, capacity and abilities. We also got excited about their Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program; MSCP and MPA, through which we recognized the importance of having an enforcing body for mental health practitioners and consolidated accreditation; Ministry of Health, through which we recognized the progress government is trying to push for on the mental health front, existing challenges, as well as steps to move forward; ADUN Subang Jaya, through which it dawned upon us the dire need for a visible and accessible mental health ecosystem in Subang Jaya, and were connected to the Subang Jaya Care Warriors community.

In 2020, we will Do our best to consolidate and reference the accreditations provided by LKM, MSCP and MPA in our database of providers for legitimacy and verification Work with our advocacy efforts to push for enforcement and accreditation Work with the Ministry of Health to fill gaps in data and inform policy choices, as well as map government services in mental health Work with ADUN Subang Jaya to provide it with robust community empowerment modules alongside ecosystem building


Through attending various workshops and events, as well as individual conversations with the people and communities around us, we realized that The LGBTQ community in Malaysia does not have a way to reach mental health services that are safe and suitable for their needs; Refugees in Malaysia are at very high risk of mental illness and also, lack access to and knowledge of suitable mental health practitioners, as well as translators; Teachers in Malaysia are highly stressed, depressed, and dealing with equally if not more stressed and depressed students; Mental health policy and advocacy in Malaysia is fragmented and does not have a concerted push, and is frequently slow to move on the political agenda. The decriminalization of suicide in the Penal Code is still under review, as far as we know. Efforts by the current government to instill awareness and work on policy measures are highly welcomed and applauded -- there is still a great deal of work to do, and we are behind it a hundred percent of the way.

In 2020, we will Work with high-risk populations and advocates to increase awareness, training of mental health practitioners and the public to serve high-risk populations, and provide access to quality mental health services

And most of all, we were validated in our hunch that Malaysians do not have a good, quick way of searching for a legitimate, affordable mental health provider near them; Referrals often come by word of mouth, yet are hindered by stigma, information asymmetry, misinformation, and barriers to entry such as pricing opacity.

Product Having done all that talking, we decided to go ahead with our idea of a digital platform mapping mental health services in Malaysia. To this end, we had to start by doing our own research, designing and development.

Design We now have over 50 mockups in screens ready for development, and many more in the making; covering the public-facing interface, providers interface, search and discovery, and user dashboards on both desktop and mobile. We decided to go with an in-browser web application, instead of a downloadable app, with the hopes that it will allow people to use the service more easily.

50 25 1

mockups and visualizations

features in the pipeline

discovery platform

Development We currently have basic user log in, basic search and filter functionality, as well as basic provider profile pages implemented. Development has been slow but steady, putting quality first, we do our best to incorporate industry best practices into the platform while working with ever-shifting timelines. The goal is to have most of the platform completed by the end of January-March 2020 so that prelaunch testing can be done.

Ecosystem Understanding and mapping the mental health provision ecosystem in Malaysia was a challenge, and still is. Drawing from various sources of information, accrediting bodies, research papers and articles, we started to build a database of mental health providers and are beginning the process of reaching out to them.

8082 360 98 52 22 6 6 1 +

registered counsellors clinical psychologists registered psychiatrists govt hospitals w/ mental healthcare govt mental healthcare centers hotlines at minimum online services at minimum discovery platform events, workshops, courses, support groups and more

*Most data as of 2016-17, numbers are estimations only

Marketing In order to expand our presence and increase visibility, we saw The launch of our landing page, featuring our story, mission and services The launch of our newsletter, subscribed to via our landing page and featuring our progress, mental health news and events around us, as well as interesting academic pieces The launch of our Facebook page The launch of our Instagram account

Impact+ In addition to ecosystem and product building, we also witnessed

1 37 35 50 5 +

QPR suicide prevention gatekeepers workshop attendees from the public, counsellors, and students included LGBTQ affirming mental health providers curated for the community through a co-initiated survey and more community members empowered with information sharing through the Subang Jaya Care Warriors initiative prospective members of our policy advocacy circle countless conversations and initiated partnerships including Sedunia and MYPsychology

Talent Volunteers We finally decided to open up Mentalogue to volunteers, including for short-term, low-commitment tasks. This was to cater to folks who wanted to contribute but were tied down with other commitments. We also encouraged people to use their existing networks and resources to contribute to our cause. For example, our volunteers were Using their university networks and presence to organize events in their university spaces and benefit young adults, training peer supporters, and promoting awareness Using their past experiences training specific populations and focus groups, to develop modules for the organizations that approached us for mental health literacy help Connecting other counsellors and providers to Mentalogue, building relationships, trust and networks to support our efforts, as well as giving us feedback on what would be good for counsellors in our service offerings

Continuous Learning & Development As a founding team, we also sought avenues to upskill and learn in order to do our work better. For example, we Engaged in conversations and mentorship with experts in the UIUX Development space, consulting them about our design process and philosophy; Received advice and guidance from fellow coders and developers in order to develop a robust and sound technical basis for our platform; Found mentorship in entrepreneurial and business circles through MaGIC, MDEC, Work Inspires, the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup School, and our wiser friends in the consulting space; Talked to other founders, not just in the med-tech space, but those in education, legal-tech, sustainability, arts and culture, and much more to understand how we could support and learn from one another Underwent a People’s Helper Course in ARKKCMY to better equip and inform ourselves about theories and practices in counselling; Took online courses on Philanthropy University and EdX to learn about accounting practices, fundraising, scale, non-profit management, confronting trauma, and more.

The Year Ahead Business & Finance Fully cover our fixed costs without taking money out-of-pocket Test our revenue streams and markets Get accredited as a social enterprise

Product Launch our first version of the platform for the Subang Jaya community Start doing a BM translation, add more local elements and vocabulary Create a user-management feature in our platform Add a tele-counselling option for practitioners Integrate public/government mental health services

Partnerships and outreach Work with employers to increase awareness of and access to Employee Assistance Programs integrating quality mental health services Work with space providers and community managers to utilize, map and connect spaces to freelancing counsellors Begin “meet a therapist� networking sessions to reduce stigma and increase awareness, and reach to rural and suburban populations Work with policymakers to leverage upon mental health data to inform policy decisions Advocate for progress in mental health policy, law and service in Malaysia

Training Start equipping organizations with mental health literacy Work with Sedunia Malaysia to identify organizations in need Teach For Malaysia partnership: Coaching the coaches, training the teachers, supporting the students Start training professionals with quality skills, and reward them with CPD points and accompanying supervision sessions with our trainers Counselling clients with suicidal ideation Using expressive arts in therapeutic treatment Career guidance and counselling for youths in partnership with Closing The Gap Malaysia Developing the skill of supervising others Working with high-need and high-risk populations Start training the public with programs integrating follow-up, practical knowledge and goals of empowerment Caregiving - Self-care, self-awareness, and caring for others Young professionals series - on burnout and boundaries

Platform launch

Q1 Caregiving series Organizational training

Continuous onboarding & feature development



Young professionals series Meet-A-Therapist CPD training Organizational training

Q4 Employer engagements CPD training

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development In line with our work at Mentalogue, we recognize the following SDGs as integral to our mission

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Reduce inequality within and among countries

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Progress has been made in reducing the global suicide rate (from 12.9 per 100,000 in 2000 to 10.6 per 100,000 in 2016). However, suicide remains the second-highest cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 globally, with 79 per cent of suicides found in low- and middle-income countries in 2016.

How you can help Financially, we need at least RM80,000 in 2020 To hire a minimum of 1 designer and 1 developer, assuming a full-time, paid position with a fair wage and contributions, or project-based, freelance contractors To maintain our web hosting, domain name and digital security certificates To increase our presence and reach those who might benefit from our services, digital marketing and physical outreach events To cover administrative and logistics costs To continuously conduct research and surveys to improve our product and services, develop useful insights for stakeholders, and inform our advocacy work

We also need talent, skills, time, and energy!

Acknowledgements For many reasons, we would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their immeasurable contributions and support. Without you, we would not have continued striving and working on Mentalogue, nor kept our sanity. You sewed our tattered dreams back together, told us we needed to make this a reality, and gave us the steam to keep plugging on, even if it was just through a chance encounter - we appreciate the work you are doing, and hope we can do our best to support you as well. In alphabetical order: Aina Azmi, MaGIC Anita Abu Bakar and team at MIASA Bridging Gaps, Building Life mentorship team Chuah Hui Yin, policy and community worker, and friend Dr Ann at the Ministry of Health Dr Lynda Ling, professional counsellor, trainer, community inspiration and friend Gary Yap and team at MYPsychology, SOLS Health Goh Chee Yim, WomenWhoCode Heidi Quah, Refuge for Refugees Ivan Lau, Focus On The Family June Liang, Country Head at Frost and Sullivan + SJCW head warrior Jane Wee, UIUX guru Jean Heng, MAPS founder, intelligent empath, and friend Jeremy Tan, Global Shapers Kuala Lumpur Jeremy Tay and Vimallnath Kathirasan, consulting gurus and friends Jeyaraj Manirajan, Joey Tan and TheSpeakSpace team John Pinto, ARKCCMY, professional counsellor, trainer, research geek, and friend Khairul Nazran, technical, statistical, development whiz, and friend Kristy and Anna, Monash Master’s in Counselling team Lee Chang Boong, benevolent policymaker, resilient communicator, and friend Loo Siew Mei and Devendran at Sedunia Malaysia Mark Chan, consultant, resourceful bloke, and friend MDEC team Pam Guneratnam at Calvary Life Ministries Pang Khee Teik, Seksualiti Merdeka Raymond Lee, QPR trainer and counsellor Rizal and Deanna, Quokka News Su Lin and Vaishu, policy advocates Wong Yeong Ru, Teach for Malaysia All our amazing volunteers Ili Nadhrah, Thye Wen Yi, Muhammad Zhafran, Jinq Wen, Anna Ong, Felicia Sheu, Loh Zie Zhen, Woo Jie Xi, Tan Yan Bin, See Mun Our therapists, folks at church, and our support systems who kept us sane. Friends, family members who kindly drove us around, did things on our behalf, connected us to others when we needed a hand, listened to our gripes, and gave us much needed sage advice - you know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.