CEO of Moment Health Nuala Murphy On The Importance Of Understanding Maternal Mental Health Challenges

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CEO and founder, Nuala Murphy first launched the Moment Health app in November 2017. The tech-based company is armed with a potentially ground-breaking digital solution for early intervention and prevention of maternal mental health illnesses like depression and associated anxieties. In its first week alone, the app quickly launched to the number one spot in the Health and Fitness category and from there has grown from strength to strength. With a new mission to roll out Moment Health into the workplace, Nuala spoke to The Style Edit about her passionate approach to mental health, her new #TakeAMoment campaign and what’s next for Moment Health. 

On her passion behind helping those with mental health challenges…

When it comes to the Moment Health story, most people’s first interest is whether I suffered with postnatal depression. Which is not important when it comes to the size of the issue we are talking about helping to solve. My whole motivation for Moment Health was understanding the challenges women face at this time of life along with my background working in medtech and software firms, I was compelled to learn more and do more. I most definitely couldn’t not do anything. On reflection I can see how my experience of antenatal care was not the norm. And how my consistency of care consultant led most likely ensured did not become one of the five women who suffer post natal depression every year in the UK. Don’t get me wrong pregnancy was tough for me, I had some pretty tough days even before the babies arrived. But because of my care  I was able to talk to someone straight away, make sense of how I was feeling and giving tools and tips for future.  That was the early intervention element I was drawn to. I wanted to recreate that for the masses.

On understanding the extent of maternal mental health challenges…

We started out looking at the maternal aspect and understanding this time of life for a woman specifically because of the adverse effects on the mother, the pregnancy and the unborn child. Becoming a mother is life changing. Your whole body changes and your whole life changes. It changes for the best but sometimes that transition can be challenging. Because it’s a challenge, it can bring up a lot of triggers or past experiences or it can be a completely new presentation of mental illness. I was curious about this. We now know that a lot of women develop mental ill health and associated anxieties (eating disorders and OCD) during pregnancy. Women don’t recognise their symptoms, downplay them, health care professionals have little to no training and screening does not happen consistently across the board. The big thing that I wanted to do with the early intervention from the app was to empower mums with the knowledge that they were not going mad, they were suffering from a treatable illness and where to get help. This information would enable them to seek help and recover.  Then as time went on and I did more research and collaborated with more people, I understood that it’s not just the adverse effects to the unborn child and it’s not just the mums, it’s also the dads.

The great news about early intervention is that there is an 80-90% chance of a full recovery. And that’s a great data point because then if we can provide the intervention quickly, whatever that needs to be via the app. We are evolving as we learn more and better position ourselves to help more people.

On mental health in the workplace…

My mission to offer early intervention via the Moment Health app has become broader than mums especially now with our workplace offering. With 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage and 1 in 6 people struggling with fertility, you don’t know what stage anyone is at in their parenting journey. So our offering is for everyone. The app helps users to recognise the signs and the symptoms of depression or anxiety and helps the users track their moods. There are many good benefits to this simple process of taking time out to check in on ourselves. The act itself promotes reflective practice. The unfortunate thing is that Mental Health is still highly stigmatised in the workplace. Very few workplaces understand exactly how to support their staff. They sign up to events, they sign up to fun days and team building but when it comes to the practical element of it when it comes to the productivity of the company and teams plus the support that there is for people who may be suffering, there’s still very little out there. 

On how new parenthood can affect the mental health of men… 

The symptoms for dads are the same as for mums. There is a different stigma associated with men and their mental health. Not having support, not being able to open up and not being able to care for a suffering partner can all contribute at this time. 

The chances are increased of a father or partner feeling vulnerable if the mother has suffered. It is estimated that 1 in 10 dads suffer postnatal depression however there is so little funding and research done into depression and anxiety at this time of life for dads and what little funding available tends to be directed to the mums. 

There’s so much more that can be done and so much more that needs to be done and so we are focused on providing the early intervention tool to as many as possible as we can.

On the Take A Moment campaign…

The idea of the Take A Moment is to encourage everybody to take a moment to check in on themselves (to download the app) for the people around them, for their colleagues, for the communities because when we stop, especially as we are so bombarded with distractions, and reflect we notice more about ourselves and those around us. Sometimes saying hello to someone or asking someone how they’re doing today or sometimes suggesting to meet up when someone’s behaviour has been a bit out of character, actually taking time to check in with them can make all the difference.

Towards the end of last year, we were looking at all the data that we’d collected from the people that had downloaded the app, what the impact has been. So we saw that people’s mood had improved. This was a big milestone for me as this meant that we had proven ourselves. We have published papers, won awards and made many treasured lists this past year, however for me,  it has been about the impact and what we have enabled via the app. For the campaign to come alive, I did a call out to the community and asked would any members share their experience with using the app. Many came back and they are those that feature in the campaign. Every story is different. Every experience is different. And we were able to show that so well. We set up a camera and captured some amazing moments. Every story is so powerful and I am so proud of all the parents who shared. 

The campaign is about encouraging people to be kind to themselves and to be more thoughtful to others. Letting people know there is a practical tool out there. The app is part of the story. 

I think there’s an important message for everyone. I know that it’s hard sometimes to take a moment. It’s hard to prioritise where you’re at in yourself.  When we see more visual examples of how others have done it, we’re more likely to do it ourselves.

On how her approach to mental health differs as a parent and a CEO…

I don’t separate the two. I’m both, a parent and a CEO. I believe in work-life integration as opposed to balance. Both roles present their own set of challenges and when it comes to being a mother, my husband and I have put things in place that support our busy lives. I’ve come to live by the mantra “don’t sweat the small stuff” when I’m at home. There’s no point in that. Don’t get me wrong, its a work in progress. I do get stressed sometimes, it’s a normal part of life but I recognise when I need to change my behaviour so it doesn’t continue. We have great support for the children which takes a huge stress off our family and means time spent with the kids in the evening is quality time where we’re reading books, talking about our day or playing games. That’s been something my husband and I have worked hard to put in place and commit to (touch wood).

As an entrepreneur, well that’s an interesting one. I’m very fortunate to have some great friends around me to keep me sane, listen to me when I’m having a hard time and offer their perspective when I’m stuck. I feel I have settled a lot the past six to nine months into what this journey I’ve committed to is about. It’s not about the label of an “entrepreneur”. it’s actually about me trying to build a business. I’m trying to be more measured in my celebrations and my disappointments. I try not to get too over-excited. I contemplate things instead. When the going gets tough I look to what I’m learning from it. If something hasn’t gone the way I wanted, I see it as an opportunity for growth. Generally, I have a pretty positive outlook on life in general (unless I’m hungry)  which has left me open to many great opportunities. 

On what truly excites her about Moment Health…

I love that it gives me an opportunity to enable people. Not to be better but to be great again. It enables them to recognise where they’re at. It’s such a powerful force. With the recent campaign that we’ve launched, I’ve had loads of people message me, people I don’t know on Facebook and Instagram, thanking me for the work I do and my commitment to it. I’ve been around now for a while and I feel something is afoot. All will reveal itself soon.  I really do love what I do.

On Moment Health’s big vision…

To do that at scale, globally would be the dream.

Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a full time fashion and features writer at The Style Edit. Her work has previously appeared in IMAGE magazine, image.ie and Emirates Woman.

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