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Using the power of technology to tackle maternal mental health illness

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Nuala Murphy is a femtech entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Moment Health – a technology company focused on early intervention in maternal mental health illness. The Moment Health app connects new mums with the tools and knowledge that are key to sustaining good mental wellbeing, from pregnancy through to parenthood.
We talk to Nuala as she readies for first round funding to further grow Moment Health, and prepares to bring the company’s corporate offering to market.

 

What is the idea behind Moment Health and how did it come about?

I developed the concept for Moment Health almost two years ago. It came about through a combination of where I was in my personal life, starting my own family – I have two young children – and where I was in my professional life, having a background in the health and technology sectors.

Not long after my second pregnancy, I learned through a report from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance that up to 80 percent of people in Northern Ireland have no access to specialist services required to treat maternal mental health illnesses.

 

It’s about using the power of technology to tackle maternal mental health so that parents – mums and dads – who are suffering depression or anxiety at any stage during pregnancy onwards, can get the help that they so crucially need.

 

The more you learn of the statistics around maternal mental health – for example, that as many as 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men suffer depression or anxiety during the perinatal period; that one in four women suffer maternal mental ill health during pregnancy; and that almost a quarter of women who died between six weeks and one year after pregnancy died from mental health related causes – the more apparent it becomes that there is a great need for improved intervention and availability of treatment, not just here but on a global scale.

With Moment Health, my goal is to facilitate meeting that need for mothers and to empower sufferers and their families. It’s about using the power of technology to tackle maternal mental health and improve accessibility to services so that parents – mums and dads – who are suffering depression or anxiety at any stage during pregnancy onwards, can get the help that they so crucially need and deeply deserve.

Anyone suffering PND anywhere in the world deserves the opportunity to realise they’re not going mad; that they are experiencing a treatable illness they can recover from. Once they know that, it’s about showing people where and how to get help.

 

What services can users access through the app and what are the benefits for parents?

The Moment Health app was launched in November last year. We developed it to be accessible to both iOS and Android users so that people can download it no matter what kind of smartphone they have. To date, it’s available in the UK, Ireland and the US, and we will be expanding to further markets as the year goes on.

Within the app, there are four key functions:

The CHECKER is a survey comprising a series of quick multiple-choice questions used by medical professionals to screen for early signs of perinatal depression and associated anxieties.

The TRACKER allows parents to record their emotions and moods, and provides a Weekly Report so that parents can see at a glance how they’ve been feeling over days, weeks and months, and flag any changes to their emotional wellbeing.

The LOCATOR tool shows the user where they can find professional medical support and services in their area.

The COMMUNITY is an online community set up to provide connectedness, support, companionship and advice – something we felt important to offer due to the fact that research shows us that peer support can prove incredibly beneficial in recovery as a complement to any clinical support and therapies that may be prescribed.

The great hope lies in the fact that research shows 80-90% of sufferers can recover with early intervention.

 

One of the company’s aims is to connect all mental health stakeholders – parents, partners, resellers and health trusts – to help parents sustain good mental health and recover from illness. How are you going about connecting those services?

When it comes to maternal mental health, I think it can’t be over-emphasised that this is something that not only affects mums and dads. Left untreated due to inadequate resources, parents and their families end up suffering and struggling to cope. More broadly, as it stands today, perinatal mental health costs the NHS an estimated £8.1 billion a year.

The great hope lies in the fact that research shows 80-90 per cent of sufferers can recover with early intervention. The earlier a person can recognise something’s not right and go and seek the right help, the better his or her chance of recovery. In turn, this could potentially greatly reduce any negative impact depression or anxiety may have on their life and the lives of their family members – even future generations.

 

The information a new mum records on our app provides valuable insights that she can bring to her GP so that both the patient and doctor can together work out next steps to facilitate recovery.

 

From the outset, we worked with clinicians and medical professionals when it came to developing our business and products to ensure we were creating something that acts as a valuable complementary tool that parents can use in conjunction with any clinical interventions they might need.

The information a new mum might record on our app provides valuable and accurate insights that she can then bring to her GP appointment so that both the patient and doctor can together work out what best next steps to take from there to facilitate recovery.

As well as working with clinicians, we are also partnered with The NCT (National Childbirth Trust in the U.K.) and have been involved in the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, the Perinatal Regional Board here in Northern Ireland and will be realising the first Maternal Mental Health Conference in Northern Ireland this May with other volunteer groups. Late last year also saw Ulster University commence a clinical trial to test the efficacy of our app so we can continue to improve its offerings and outcomes. Early indications are very positive.

 

What is the commercial model behind Moment Health? Do users pay for the service?

The app is available in both the app store and play store. It is our goal that the check feature is always free and available to those that need it. Future features will include enhanced tracking and services based on the users need.

We are also close to launching our corporate offering, where Moment Health can be incorporated into an organisation’s own wellness programme, or it can be offered as a standalone support tool. Our products have the potential to pre-empt absences and speed up recovery by connecting parents with the support they need for long-term recovery.

 

You have recently been successful in receiving early stage investment to build a team and bring the first consumer and corporate offerings to market; how did you go about sourcing investment partners and what would your advice be to other early stage start-ups looking for funding?

In May 2017 we secured early stage investment. It was amazing to have that win announced on World Maternal Mental Health Day, and as part of Maternal Mental Health Week. This first stage was backed by techstart NI and made it possible for us to develop the team. We have a small team of people who believe in the cause and bring as much dedication to their work as they do their individual skills. My ambition is to tackle maternal mental health issues on a global scale and I have a team working alongside me and helping me to do just that.

We have good initiatives backed by Invest Northern Ireland however my best advice would be talk to as many founders as possible, hang out in the co- working spaces and connect with organisations and people you admire – be direct and succinct in your ask. What I have found is that most founders want to help and pay it forward but you need to make it easy for them. Same goes for mentors and seeking them out. Be bold and proceed.

In 2017 I received some fantastic accolades including Top 40 Under 40 Northern Ireland, the Belfast Top 50 Business Award, and the Young Business Ambassador Award. I have just returned from New York, where I travelled as part of a Dragons Den win to launch Moment Health into the US market and meet with potential partners and investors.

 

What are your ambitions for Moment Health in 2018?

I want every new and expectant mother to have our app, be it acquired personally via the app store or via their employer or health provider and that will be testament to us truly making maternal mental health mainstream.

I also want to find partners and organisations who want to help us in this journey and therefore welcome them getting in touch.

And finally to publish internationally evidence based research that our offering is actually working (early statistical feedback shows this to be the case!) To date we are based on research and backed by science and that is fundamental to the growth of Moment Health in the future.

www.momenthealth.io

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