Q&A with imatta founder Chris Perry Metcalf
Interview below with Imatta founder Chris Perry Metcalf ahead of the public launch of imatta on 10th October 2023 - World Mental Health Day.
Q: Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to create imatta?
Chris: Of course, I’ve been involved in mental health businesses for several years now, through Auxesia, AnonyMind and Leon House. It all started at Auxesia when we started providing affordable homes for shared ownership, rental and rent to buy. A lot of the houses went to ex-military and emergency services personnel. And we noticed that many needed more support reintegrating back into society.
We created a physical clinic (Leon House), and began treating a wide range of psychological disorders and addictions to help with their reintegration. The uptake, and the impact we were able to make was phenomenal. Covid struck and we moved our treatment pathways and services online, creating AnonyMind in the process.
In doing so we broadened our client base and saw a number of benefits to digital treatment, namely that people could access it anonymously, from anywhere in the world, at a place and time where they were comfortable breaking down the barriers to them accessing treatment . Across many of our treatment programmes our team of psychologists witnessed an improvement in outcomes because of this.
Throughout this process, we learnt a lot and witnessed first hand the growing problems with existing mental health support solutions. Long wait times, difficult to access, stigma, fear of use and them only being accessed when at crisis point is the common rhetoric. The majority of people aren’t being served by the existing solutions, especially in the workplace. Many businesses are paying for support services that less than 5% of their employees will actually use!
All of the data points show increases in mental health issues, the levels of absenteeism and presenteeism show clearly that people aren’t getting the support they need. There is a gap that needs to be filled, and myself and the team here at 11 group felt that we were best placed to create that solution. That’s where the idea for imatta was born.
Q: Can you tell us more about the platform and how it differs from traditional solutions such as EAP providers?
Chris: Absolutely. So there’s many businesses out there offering mental health support services, many of which are actually really good but they’re typically only focusing on one area of it and it tends to be very reactive and less proactive; where imatta’s aims to be a preventative solutions providing clinical treatment as well as a wide range of holistic, wellbeing and human performance video content and live and interactive sessions.
Many of the more involved services, such as psychological support sessions are being delivered by providers whose business model dictates that they’re more profitable the less you use their services - which causes obvious problems. Speaking to lots of organisations they were paying subscriptions for several of these different platforms, often in addition to an EAP solution, and several were only offering them to employees on a by request basis! Their offerings to employees felt a bit fragmented and were poorly utilised.
We knew what was broken, and that we needed to be better. Our focus is all about bringing support upstream. We know that earlier support makes all the difference, and have seen a huge shift towards more positive behaviours when people have a space to reach out early and on their terms.
Our platform achieves this by providing a huge, and constantly growing bank of digital content covering interviews, guides, education and advice. Weekly seminars with industry leading psychologists, public figures, human performance and wellbeing coaches. As well as intervention calls to those displaying at risk behaviours, and easy-access 121 care sessions with qualified psychologists and counsellors available to the user within 60 minutes!
Being impartial to the employer and our ability to deliver fast treatment around the clock has been a game changer to utilisation in the trials we’ve ran so far. We believe that our offer, in taking a more holistic approach to mental health, wellness and human performance allows users to feel supported earlier, and move more quickly toward a place of sustained positive health and performance.
Q: Where did the name come from?
Chris: We’d been bouncing around a couple of ideas, and during a discussion about our first treatment centre, we were remembering how rewarding it was to see the early patient outcomes and progress. And how often the breakthrough came with the client realising ‘I matter’, like I'm valued, important etc. We liked how the ‘matta’ also gives a nod to ‘brain matter’ and our efforts to better understand and support that.
It felt a nice fit for the space we’re in and what we’re trying to achieve. You can see that through the branding we’ve created with the ‘i’ being supported by the rest of the text - our focus is always on supporting the individual. We managed to secure the domain name and the rest is history!
Q: How do you ensure that your platform delivers effective mental health support?
Chris: We’ve built a network of over 700 HCPC, BACP and BABCP licensed mental health professionals who are well-versed in everything to do with evidence-based therapies. We’ve involved this team not just in delivering treatment pathways, but in the curation of the content on the platform.
It’s difficult because there’s so much misinformation about mental health and wellbeing out there, and social media gives anyone the ability to share ‘advice’ online - which oftentimes can be well intentioned but doing more harm than good. It’s our ambition to be the go-to trusted voice in the sector, so our focus has been that at every touchpoint we’re able to offer gold standard support, really quickly.
We didn’t want our product to be another mental health ‘tick box’ product, it has to be better. So we’ve invested in bringing in quality people throughout the business to ensure that we are providing true value to the end user. We’ve become a bit obsessed with how we can deliver the most value, it’s the focus of most of our discussions internally about how we can ensure that all of our subscribers receive the best quality support.
We also now gather a lot of data and feedback which we use to track the progress of the individuals and businesses using our platform. We monitor outcomes, user satisfaction, and engagement levels and make continuous improvements. I truly believe if all of the team is aligned on improving even one small thing for our users, by 1% each day, we’ll soon have the best quality and most comprehensive platform on the platform.
Q: What have you observed in terms of the impact on the businesses that have adopted it?
Chris: We've been thrilled with the impact we've seen so far. It’s early days as we’re just about to launch to the public but we’ve been doing fairly extensive user trials on the platform for the past 4 months. Working closely with both individuals and businesses who’ve properly stress tested all parts of the platform and business.
It’s been a fantastic learning experience and something we’ll continue to do - working closely with our customers to better understand how we can add more value. The data we’re seeing has been really positive with average utilisation over 65%, and NPS scores for both employer and employees above 70! We introduced a ‘workplace pulse’ score too that shows that after about 2 months’ usage, people’s ‘how are you feeling today’ scores are up around 19% which is a really positive sign that we’re all excited about.
Anecdotally we’ve also had great feedback around improved employee morale and ‘a nice feel’ around the businesses, with people discussing the content on the platform and having more open discussions around mental health issues which is great feedback to receive.
Thankfully the companies we trialled with have told other people about us, and it means we’re launching with a small waitlist of businesses ready to join - which is evidence we must be doing something right!
Q: How do you envision the future of mental health support in the workplace?
Chris: I believe that the future of mental health support in the workplace will be centred on prevention and proactive well-being. We want to see mental health treated with the same importance and openness as physical health, and our platform is a step in that direction.
We’re all aware of the challenges the NHS is facing, and the direction of travel seems to be around more impetus being placed on employers to support their team's health, and I think that will continue. Whilst everyone, including ourselves, are excited about the application of new technologies, it’s important to not lose sight of the individual, the ‘i’ in imatta. What’s always been true, and what will remain, is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this.
I hope that all solutions move to a place where they’re prioritising the end-user first and foremost. Giving them space and freedom to learn more about themselves, and self identify what works and what they’re comfortable using. Whilst providing the support structures to improve and sustain positive behaviours.
I’m hoping that by moving support upstream we’re able to help implement culture change, so that people feel comfortable and avoid getting to crisis point before they reach out. We envision a future where people feel supported, heard, and empowered to take care of their mental well-being. We're excited to see where the future takes us.
To learn more about the work we’re doing to support individuals and businesses to better support their mental health, wellness and human performance visit imatta.com