Local mental health startup kicking goals

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ben hawthorn
Ben Hawthorn founded Suitsme less than a year ago. Image Supplied

Suitsme, a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) app that helps to match clients with support workers, continues to hit milestones despite only being launched less than a year ago.

Having handled COVID-19 relatively well by global standards, Australia hasn’t remained immune to a rising health issue that has been exuberated by the pandemic – that of mental health.

Lockdowns, restrictions, the initial increase in unemployment, working-from-home, among many other lifestyle changes have unfortunately increased the prevalence of mental health issues among the wider population, including issues worsened by increased social isolation.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), between March 2020 and January 2021, around 11.5 million Medicare subsidised mental health-related services were provided. Lifeline received over 85,000 calls in the four weeks to 24 January 2021 – a 10% increase from the same time last year and a staggering 21.4% increase from the same month in January 2019. BeyondBlue recorded similar numbers with increases of 27.2% and 29.6% for the same time frame in 2020 and 2019 respectively.

Ben Hawthorne became inspired by the idea of Suitsme after being repeatedly told by individuals seeking mental health support they would enjoy the convenience of being able to easily choose who supports them and select a time that suits them – hence the startup’s name. 

He added that the mental health system is subject to much criticism in the media for not adequately listening to client’s feedback when designing services – something that has been at the forefront for the business while developing their product.

Suitsme blends mental health services under the NDIS by using tech to provide client-centred support. Using the iOS or Andriod app, clients can then browse health care workers and support.

“Suitsme put lived experience at the centre of design right from the outset and that’s the way it will continue to be,” Ben told Startup News.

We are constantly getting feedback from our clients and feeding it into the design process with rapid turn around to operationalise changes and show our users that we listen and respond. In this way clients can be at the centre of their recovery journey and support needs.

Ben Hawthorne

Ben admitted that given the prevalence of mental health issues nationally, Suitsme is in high demand. It’s a bittersweet feeling.

“It’s been hard to keep up with demand for our services to be honest,” he said.

Just 10 months in, Suitsme already employs close to 80 staff and is the process of growing at pace by scaling up and exploring interstate opportunities.

Ben said the startup is expected to hit a break-even point next year and is hopeful the app will continue to use innovative technology to improve outcomes for their clientele.

“The plan is about impact at scale and providing not just 100’s but 1000’s of people across Australia, living with mental health conditions, with psycho-social supports that suit them,” he said.

We are achieving great outcomes with clients, it’s still early days but we are excited about the prospect of not only deliver impact through fostering great human connection and delivering support hours, but the possibilities around the interface of mental health outcomes and machine learning and natural language processing technologies that can be built into Suitsme.

Ben Hawthorne

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