YURI MARSHALL AND MICHAEL NEEDHAM
YURI MARSHALL AND MICHAEL NEEDHAM
The Mental Health Act of the Philippines was passed in 2018, and by 2020, there was a 149-percent increase in the average monthly calls for urgent help received by the National Center for Mental Health. In 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority nonetheless reported that deaths caused by suicide rose by 57.3 percent from 2020. Given these figures, there is no doubt that the country is in a desperate state of a mental health crisis.

This reality inspired Michael Needham, Yuri Marshall, and their team at Mind You Mental Health Systems to create a platform that would make mental health care more accessible and affordable in the Philippines.

Michael Needham and Yuri Marshall are co-founders of Mind
You Mental Health Systems, a platform that hopes to make
mental health care more accessible and affordable in the
Philippines.
Michael Needham and Yuri Marshall are co-founders of Mind You Mental Health Systems, a platform that hopes to make mental health care more accessible and affordable in the Philippines.

Marshall, CEO and founder, looks back thoughtfully on what inspired them to start Mind You in this exclusive interview with The Sunday Times Magazine. "It was our personal experiences that fueled our passion for mental health coupled with the introduction of the Mental Health Act in the Philippines."

Marshall recalls that when Mind You was just an idea in the early days, he and Michael unearthed a "plethora of data in the Philippines" associated with suicide rates, depression and the lack of sustainable services to sufficiently take care of the entire population. He notes, "The greatest driver for us was the staggering amounts of deaths occurring from suicides. For us, the number one priority really was to save lives. We wanted to provide a nationwide safety net for those experiencing the darkest times."

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Marshall
pursued a
career in
legal space
in Australia
for nearly 20
years before
surviving an
untoward
incident that
ultimately
pivoted his
career to
focus on the
mental and
behavioral
health space.
Marshall pursued a career in legal space in Australia for nearly 20 years before surviving an untoward incident that ultimately pivoted his career to focus on the mental and behavioral health space.

Needham was also quick to share his experience upon returning to the Philippines from London. "My mental health experience formed much of our inspiration for Mind You. I definitely saw firsthand the lack of resources and the difficult process of finding a psychiatrist in the Philippines. Not only was the process difficult, but it was also extremely expensive. I was shocked by both the process and the cost, and it made me think, how else can the average Filipino ever afford mental health care in this country?"

They needed to take things one step at a time. Marshall went all the way back to understanding the stigma that is still widely associated with anything involving mental health in the country. In this case, Filipinos' most prominent cultural beliefs are that "depression and anxiety are non-existent and those mental illnesses are something to be ashamed of."

Needham
grew up in
the United
Kingdom
and pursued
a career in
investment
banking and
finance before
moving to the
Philippines to
pursue his own
entrepreneurial
endeavors.
Needham grew up in the United Kingdom and pursued a career in investment banking and finance before moving to the Philippines to pursue his own entrepreneurial endeavors.

"Stemming from the stigma are all the layers and degrees of mental health illnesses and the challenges and barriers [including pervasive stigmas]. So Mind You is a movement dedicated — in fact, devoted — to transforming the culture towards mental health 'long-term' so that our country and our people can make progress in a positive and prosperous direction."

Together with more co-founders in Cameron Quin, Mark Pagal and Ben Arnold, Marshall and Needham were confident that the narrative of mental health in the Philippines needed to change and that together, they could get the ball rolling to address the misconceptions.

Returning to their roots

Both accomplished entrepreneurs with Filipino roots, Marshall and Needham, took their own international experiences to create a sustainable mental health platform that will benefit all Filipinos.

Marshall spent his formative years in Papua New Guinea before receiving a scholarship from the prestigious Bond University in Australia. Having had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was young, Marshall chose to withdraw from university to pursue a business opportunity in the legal space. The dropout soon found his career thriving in the specialist area of law, specifically Migration, Citizenship, and Refugee Law in Australia. He pursued this career for nearly 20 years before surviving a suicide attempt that ultimately pivoted his career to focus on the Mental and Behavioral Health space.

Needham grew up in the United Kingdom and attended Brighton College before graduating with honors in Business Management from the London School of Economics. He then pursued a career in investment banking and finance, specifically working for Credit Suisse, the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry office in London, and other prominent institutions before moving to the Philippines to pursue his own entrepreneurial endeavors.

Marshall and Needham both believe that the Filipino people deserve not only a country that has a deeper understanding and respect for mental health issues but also a place where resources can easily be accessed. This vision continually inspires fellow advocates and the rest of their team to keep going despite the many challenges they faced in building Mind You in the country.

Making Mind You real

Marshall believes that "establishing new foundations in the Philippines through technology and information channels that will support the mental health industry to grow in a sustainable manner" is necessary in the fight against mental health impartiality in the country.

Since its founding in 2019, Mind You has focused on three areas to build these foundations. As Marshall explains, "These foundations including reducing stigma towards mental health through education, awareness, and conversational programs, reducing the costs of individual therapy sessions, and lastly, improving access to mental health support systems by leveraging existing communication and information channels, alongside technology development for remote access capabilities nationwide."

Needham also acknowledges the importance of partnering with corporations in the country in order to provide access to the everyday Filipino worker. "We wanted to find a middle ground where we can provide these services without sacrificing the fees provided to the psychologists. We found this by involving businesses and corporations and encouraging them to develop a health care model that would already provide these services to their employees."

He also notes that it was extremely important to increase the level of psychological care available, and Mind You's key partnerships with BPP, the Australian Government, and Universities allow them to do just that.

This specific model of working directly with companies was first launched by Mind You in 2020 and since then has worked with the country's top organizations. Companies who partnered with Mind You had the opportunity to provide their employees access to psychologists and therapists through the Mind You Portal as part of their regular employee health benefits.

Nearly 23 percent of all employees registered with Mind You's services showed they desperately needed help. A huge percentage, it indicates the number of people were thinking of ending their life. Mind You has also seen a spike in bookings during the pandemic's peak in 2021, and happily, a greater percentage of therapy sessions completed in the first quarter of 2022.

Marshall, Needham and the rest of Mind You’s supporters believe that the Filipino people deserve not only a
country that has a deeper understanding and respect for mental health issues but also a place where resources can
easily be accessed.
Marshall, Needham and the rest of Mind You’s supporters believe that the Filipino people deserve not only a country that has a deeper understanding and respect for mental health issues but also a place where resources can easily be accessed.
This is a small win for the company, which still sees a bigger vision of making mental health resources even more accessible to more and more of the population.

When asked about their continued vision, Marshall thoughtfully responds, "Our immediate vision is to help at least one million people overcome stress, anxiety and depression by 2025. From 2020 to now, we have helped support workforces of all sizes with preventative mental health support systems, so organizations can reap the benefits of increased productivity and psychological safety to secure our nation's human capital. We are especially excited to announce that before the end of 2022, we are launching our Mind You native app on IOS and Android, which can soon be downloaded from your phone's app store. The Mind You app will have direct booking capabilities to speak to a licensed psychologist and will also feature tools and resources to help with your everyday struggles and help raise self-awareness of your personal mental health. We will also gradually build access to a range of behavioral health and integrative medical services by cooperating with mental health clinics, behavioral practitioners, integrative health doctors and wellness professionals so that people can benefit from a 360-degree approach to their overall wellbeing.

"I look forward to seeing the Philippines prosper as we ground ourselves in our strengths and strive for progress as a cohesive society. The key is to create a psychologically safe environment [on a national level] that will be conducive for resilience and growth."

The future

Without a doubt, Mind You has made significant changes in the country's mental health landscape since it was founded in 2019. Not only has it lessened the stigma attached to mental health through resources provided across their different channels — including a podcast hosted by one of its celebrity investors, Liza Soberano — but it has also provided mental health access to more Filipinos.

The company continues to grow in its ownership team, including celebrity investors Nadine Lustre and Yassi Pressman, as well as the Australian government, but for them, there's more to do to fulfill their personal five-year plan for Mind You.

Needham responds when asked where they see Mind You in five years, "I see every Filipino having access to Mind You and Mind You elevating the standard of mental health across the country. I see us being more involved in passing even more legislation and participating in greater education about mental health. I see us working with the best in the fields of Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Psychotherapy, and just elevating mental health education in the country."

Marshall concludes, "I would like to see Mind You helping more communities and individuals across the Philippines. Improving access to information about mental health and behavioral health so that all Filipinos can self-educate and 'decide' in their own space and time to prioritize their mental health and overall wellbeing. I see Mind You fostering lifelong partnerships with both government and private entities with the goal of securing our nation's human capital i.e., our people and our culture. The cherry on top would be in partnership with other major mental health organizations in the country and in the region so we can put an end to toxic competitiveness. This is healthcare. This is our future. We need to work 'together' to provide the highest quality care possible to our people."