We talked to Andrea Campos of Yana about mental health problems and she had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andrea Campos: Fortunately, very good. Thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Yana.
Andrea Campos: I have lived with depression since I was eight years old.
From that age, I grew up thinking that sadness and loneliness were part of my personality, that perhaps I was poorly born or “broken.” I never imagined that it was a disease that required professional attention and treatment.
In silence, I tried different methods and therapies (traditional and non-traditional) in fear of “what will they say.” It was not until I was 22 years old, fourteen years of the disease, and several suicide attempts, that I found Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and pharmacotherapy as a treatment for my chronic depression.
By coincidence, just at that age, I was learning programming in a self-taught way. I realized that I could use technology to program a system that would help me survive my next depressive episode. Despite starting as a personal project, when I talked with more people, I realized that others could benefit from a system like the one I was designing. And at that moment, Yana was born.
Although I started to work at the age of 16, I never graduated from college. I dropped out in my 3rd semester because of severe depression. I was studying “Entertainment Business Management.”
How does Yana innovate?
Andrea Campos: Currently, most people with mental health problems (~ 80%) of any severity or intensity are unaware that they need professional help and generally resolve their problems through non-professional methods. This can be through coaching, physical activity, advice from family or friends, for example. Due to costs, distances, and stigma, few (~ 20%) go to therapy, and a much smaller percentage use medication.
What is innovative about Yana is that:
It combines technology and psychology to help millions of people at the same time, without the need for human intervention (unless it is necessary).
On the other hand, although Yana does not replace traditional therapy, it does provide Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) strategies and tools so that people can benefit from them and contain (or reduce) the symptoms of depression or anxiety affecting them.
Being a programmed virtual Chatbot with knowledge in mental health, Yana can help many people simultaneously by providing self-care tools, teaching about the mental health problem, and directing health professionals if necessary, all in comfort from your cell phone.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Andrea Campos: In one way, we had to cut costs since the beginning of April; every team member has been surviving on a short budget. On the other hand, we struggled with our seed round because investors were scared to invest in Mexican companies. The pandemic didn’t help much with that fear.
On the “bright” side, the pandemic has brought a lot of awareness to the mental health conversation, and we couldn’t have arrived at a better time. We have been able to help over a million Spanish-speaking people in Mexico and other Latin countries.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Andrea Campos: I guess this year’s only tricky choice has been to switch our app’s model from free to monthly subscriptions. As much as we wanted to find a revenue model that didn’t involve the final user, it became tough to sustain our business without it. It did bring some backlash from our users. Mainly because mental health is perceived as a “human right,” and users feel it should always remain free. We couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately, as long as our government doesn’t develop accessible solutions for the population, these kinds of initiatives have to remain under the private sector, and, well, it’s impossible to do it for free. We have a team of specialists working every day, many servers (about to explode, btw), office expenses, taxes, etc.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Andrea Campos: First and foremost, through our app. It was initially built for me, and I still use it every day to cope with my depression and anxiety.
Apart from Yana, I try to eat well, exercise, and meditate regularly.
Your final thoughts
Andrea Campos: Thank you for taking an interest in how startups like us have been dealing with this situation.