ONLINE SOLUTION FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH CROWNED SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Image caption: Assistert Selvhjelp triumphed in the 2018 Social Entrepreneur of the Year competition. Photo: Camilla Eriksen.
Assistert Selvhjelp triumphed in the face of tough competition from the two other nominees. The prize was awarded at SosEntFesten, an event that celebrates social entrepreneurs and social innovation, which this year was held on 21 November in Oslo. Over 350 delegates were in attendance to congratulate the winner for helping more people to get help with their mental health issues more quickly and simply than they otherwise could.
“Mental health problems are costly both for the individual and society. It is particularly important to reach those individuals who are not offered treatment by normal healthcare services. Assistert Selvhjelp addresses this treatment gap and could be a very important supplement to the services provided by the public sector. Moreover, the service is available to people when they themselves feel they need it, including out of office hours”, explains Johan H. Andresen, the chair of the jury.
Johan H. Andresen emphasises that the jury also thought that there was significant potential for the solution to be scaled up – both because it is web-based and can reach a lot of people and because the company has seen good uptake both in the public sector and by the service’s target audiences.
The threshold for patients and their doctors to access mental healthcare services can be high. It is estimated that about half of people who need treatment for mild to moderate anxiety and depression disorders do not receive care.
Assistert Selvhjelp addresses this by delivering a web-based low-threshold treatment service for disorders such as anxiety, depression, sleep complaints and burnout. The company’s solution capitalises on users’ own resources to enable them to actively contribute to improving their own health. The solution can be combined with Rask Psykisk Helsehjelp (Prompt Mental Healthcare), a low-threshold treatment service provided by municipal healthcare services.
“It’s incredible to have been crowned Social Entrepreneur of the Year! It is wonderful to have what we are trying to do recognised, and it will help us on our journey to becoming a leading provider of automated, digital care for mental health complaints”, comments Oskar Blakstad, the company’s founder.
Assistert Selvhjelp has attracted a lot of attention in 2018. Its founder, Oskar Blakstad, was recently made a Fellow of Ashoka – an organisation that invests in social entrepreneurs with significant potential. The company was also nominated this year for Sørlandet Hospital’s Innovation Prize.
According to Helga Øvsthus Tønder of Ashoka Norway, Oskar Blakstad was made an Ashoka Fellow because he has developed an innovative product that helps health services in Norway and other countries to respond more quickly and appropriately to the needs of people with mild-to-moderate mental health issues.
“His company’s technological solution is also enabling mental healthcare experts to develop courses of treatment that can reach far, far more people than they can see in the treatment room. Oskar is working on changing the system so that more people can access better care more quickly. The changes to the system he is working to deliver and the potential for the solution to be scaled up nationally and internationally mean he is a world-class social entrepreneur”, comments Helga Øvsthus Tønder.
About Social Entrepreneur of the Year
Social Entrepreneur of the Year is a prestigious award given to a social entrepreneur that has exceptionally strong potential in terms of solving social challenges. This year’s jury consisted of representatives from SoCentral, Ashoka, Reach for Change, Tøyen Unlimited, Innovation Norway, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess’ Foundation, and Ferd Social Entrepreneurs. All those involved had extensive and wide-ranging experience of the field and work actively to ensure more social entrepreneurs are able to succeed.
Previously companies applied to be nominated for the award themselves. This year, however, the members of the jury each put forward three candidates, giving a total of 20 companies. The Jury then nominated three companies from these 20 based on three criteria, namely innovativeness, sustainability and scalability.
Text: ANNIKEN GRUNDT/ANAM JAVAID