Dealing with depression can be extremely challenging, especially for working adults. While students can at least take a break from school, adults often keep their condition a secret for fear of the stigma surrounding depression in the workplace.

Then there’s the challenge of finding a psychologist or psychiatrist who’s a good fit for you, and excusing yourself from work to attend therapy sessions. On top of that, the cost of therapy and medications can be quite steep.

Thankfully, Dom de Leon and Sam Sanchez, graduate students from the Asian Institute of Management, are in the process of creating a mental health start-up that’s geared towards working adults. Arooga Health—it takes its name from the Filipino word meaning "to care for"—aims to give easier access to mental health care for people who need it.

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Arooga matches you with a trusted care provider based on your objective, preferred schedule, mode of interaction, and budget. You have the option of meeting your therapist in person, or conducting the session via video call or chat. The app will be available on desktop, tablet, and mobile. You can rest assured that your private information and conversations will be secure, since Arooga Health is working towards complying with the Philippine Data Privacy Act of 2012 on top of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards. Your data will be kept safe using 256-bit SSL encryption. Each session will consist of a personalized care assessment and a one-hour consult.


Arooga Health also targets companies who want to provide their employees with mental health benefits. “Currently, mental health related issues are not covered by company benefits and there are no onsite counselors available in the workplace,” de Leon explains. “Employees, companies, and organizations do not have convenient access to trusted care providers for their emotional and mental wellness. The stigma attached to mental illnesses also prevent employees from seeking help. Along with this, the Philippines' mental health initiatives are lagging behind other ASEAN countries who have started addressing this issue.”

That’s why it’s part of their goal to address this need. Companies who sign up for Arooga Health plans will be able to outsource counselors and connect their employees with licensed care providers. In fact, de Leon and Sanchez have already begun marketing their start-up to different companies. So far, a leading advertising agency has already signed an intent letter to pilot Arooga Health.

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De Leon and Sanchez got the idea for Arooga Health after a meeting with their fellow class officers back in February 2017. As part of an exercise to build trust and camaraderie among the officers, they all shared their experiences of going through a deep personal struggle. “It was there that we discovered that we both had similar issues with family members and loved ones finding and seeking emotional and mental help,” de Leon says. “Equipped with seven years of experience, skills in management and technology, and a network of would-be partners and advisors, we came up with the idea to form Arooga Health as our Capstone project.”

They’ve certainly gone far within the span of just one year. Arooga Health was named one of the top 3 startups in the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC Cyberjaya) Pre-Accelerator Bootcamp. It was also the Regional Social Enterprise Award Winner at the UNDP #YouthColab Summit in Bangkok. This August, Arooga Health will be representing the Philippines again at a UNDP Summit in China.

In the meantime, they’re applying for grants to build their founding team and preparing for their closed beta launch. “What makes Arooga Health different from these competitors is the network of Philippine-based care providers that Arooga Health matches with Philippine-based customers,” de Leon explains. “The counseling sessions could be done in the care seeker’s language since the care provider would also able to understand the seeker better. This means that sessions could be done without any loss of translation due to language barriers.”

If you’d like to request early access to test the app yourself, you can do so by logging on to AroogaHealth.com.

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This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.

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