Online mental healthcare services a godsend in Korea

March 4, 2022
Online mental healthcare services a godsend in Korea

People are driven to look for alternative forms of support for mental health, which is still a taboo topic in many societies. Enter easily accessible digital or online resources, which allow people to seek out less conspicuous solutions to their mental health woes. In Korea, the recent influx of online communities and health apps offer solutions that range from online meditation to consultation – these have unexpectedly created a new world of mental health resources for dire citizens.

Mental health concerns have skyrocketed in just two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data by the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, one out of five people were likely to develop depression in 2021, with the number of people thinking about taking their own lives rising by 40% year on year.

“Even before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on global mental health, many people were quietly bearing the burden of mental illness due to a lack of facilities that allow them to share their issues and the stigma attached to these illnesses,” Kim Kyu-tae, the Founder of Atommerce, the operator of the country’s largest metal healthcare app MindCafe

Services like MindCafe link users to counselors and even offer a quiz that identifies common signs and symptoms of possible conditions that the user may be dealing with. Currently, more than 1 million Koreans, eager to anonymously share their troubles, have signed up to MindCafe with more coming in after the company added the ability to reach out to counselling experts for advice, indicating the strong potential for an online mental healthcare industry; it has also caught the eye of venture capitalists: MindCafe collected 20 billion won (US$16.7 million) in its recent Series B funding, with one of its biggest contributors being healthcare investment firm E&Investment.

“[The online mental healthcare sector] is part of the fast-growing digital therapeutics industry, which bridges the gap between patients and the most appropriate necessary treatment,” said Kim Hye-rin, growth capital director at E&Investment.

Digital therapeutics, used in conjunction with conventional medicine and facilitated by remote treatment, is expected to boost the effectiveness of treatments. This option has been approved in the US, with many companies in South Korea set to follow suit.

Companies have also adopted mental health solutions as part of employee assistance programs (EAP) to ensure the quality of their workforce. Atommerce, for example, provides EAPs to over 120 companies, including Naver Corporation which provides the country with a popular online search service.

Read: Resilience key to boosting mental health

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