All in the head

Published August 27, 2022, 11:00 AM

by Carol RH Malasig

Why investing in mental health has never been so crucial

MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE Mind You CEO Yuri Marshall wants more companies to invest in their employees’ mental health

It seems like these days, more and more people are suffering from burnout. In almost every casual gettogether, I find myself discussing the resurgence of stressful work environments with different people, even at home, commiserating with my own husband. While we both chose careers that were already demanding even before the pandemic, there’s something about now and the past two years that seem to push people into their breaking points.

Yuri Marshall, the Filipino-Australian CEO of mental health technology company Mind You, is not surprised. During our conversation, he shared how the pandemic was a classic example of how people thrived through difficulty.

But at what cost?

“Suicide rates are at an alarming rate in the Philippines,” said Marshall. Our conversation happened a mere week before “quiet quitting” blew up on social media—a trend among the younger generation where they decide to only give the bare minimum to their jobs. It’s a concept that may be easy to accept for Gen Z, but will surely throw Millennials into much discomfort. After all, who are we if we don’t excel in our life-defining careers?

TIMELESS TERNO Salvacion Lim Higgins may have been gone for about three decades now but her timeless designs remain

Marshall, who has been leading a top immigration law firm in Queensland for 18 years, tried to take his own life in 2019. Luckily, he survived. The experience led him to become active in destigmatizing the discussion on mental health problems and increasing access to therapy.

Over the past two years, Marshall and his team have been working on bringing mental health services closer to Filipinos. In a country where there are only 700 psychiatrists, which means one for every 200,000—and an hour with a mental health professional can feed a small family for days—getting help isn’t really easy, cost effective, and high on the list of priorities for the working class.

So Marshall and his team decided to convince businesses to invest in the wellbeing of their employees, bringing technology and teams of mental health professionals together. “What most companies don’t realize is they are leaking money now. Looking at data, we see low productivity, high attrition, high presenteeism, and high absenteeism. How can companies turn that around? By forcing them to work then they leave and they just keep jumping from organization to organization trying to find a safe space to work?”

Marshall convinced companies to invest between ₱50 to ₱150 per person per month. “This is for unlimited psychological access. We asked leaders if they wanted to invest an extra 100 pesos per person per month to increase their productivity, their output. If they wanted to create a psychologically safe environment, protect their human capital, and have technology plugged into their HR system to understand the human behavioral data,” proposed Marshall, adding that the response has been positive with some of the companies they work with extending Mind You’s services to the employees’ dependents. The proposal came after they saw that wellbeing at home also affects productivity at work.

In just two years since they started, Mind You is now servicing over 50 organizations, some of the largest in the country, across 38 different industries. “We’ve got almost 40,000 people on the platform. So we’re serving quite large segments of these workforce communities,” Marshall added.

With talks of an upcoming recession, Marshall added that investing in human capital will go a long way. “I was really happy when I was at the economic briefing and I was quite surprised and inspired to see there were mental health pillars as part of the administration’s focus over the next six years,” he said. “When I saw that I was like, okay. The government’s starting to notice and obviously, you can’t ignore the data on the cost of mental health and that’s only going to be exacerbated by our economic environment.”

Mind You recently received a grant from the Australian government to further their cause. The company will be hosting its annual National Mental Health Summit this October with the hopes of bringing mental health awareness and services to an even wider audience.

MaArte Fair at the Pen

DRESSED UP LOBBY Outfits created by national artist for design Salvacion Lim Higgins adorned the Pen’s lobby for MaArte Fair

Over the weekend, the MaArte Fair drew hordes of shoppers to the Peninsula Manila. The fair brought some of the most talented Filipino designers and artisans, showcasing their products in several rooms spanning three floors of the hotel. Some of the rooms were dressed up to match the unique and quirky finds while some had more traditional pieces. There really was something for everyone. A few favorites were camisas from Moda Eustacia, beautifully-constructed tops from Viña Romero, and jewelry from Natalya Lagdameo that marry tradition with modern sensibilities.

The fair was also a fundraising event, which benefitted the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, a non-profit that supports the National Museum of the Philippines. To add to the event was a gorgeous exhibit at the Pen’s lobby featuring the work of national artist for design Salvacion Lim Higgins, known as ‘SLIM’ in the Filipino fashion industry. SLIM was a fashion designer who was active from the late ’40s until her death in 1990. A master in draping and embellishment, she was also responsible for some of the most avant-garde silhouettes during her active years. SLIM’s gorgeous ternos and timeless evening gowns dressed up the Pen’s gorgeous lobby, one of my favorite spots in Manila, a place I’d proudly say is even prettier than some of Europe’s more expensive hotels.