Investment Note

Mental health in your back pocket: why we invested in Foremind

Written by Tom Smalley on behalf of the Skalata Investment Team
“We’re a generation of people who are hesitant to make phone calls. So if someone is struggling with their mental state on top of it, the hardest thing to do is pick up the phone and talk to some stranger about it.”
Joel Anderson

Foremind founder Joel Anderson once tried to use an employee assistance program (EAP) at a previous engineering job. Awkward and impersonal to use, it just created another obstacle to getting help.

Mental health management is on most of our to-do lists whether we’re aware of it or not. For some it’s planning a walk or a weekend away, for some it’s taking medication or booking in with a professional. But those well-intentioned to-do lists can make us even more stressed.

And the mental health statistics in the construction industry are, in Joel’s words, “pretty harrowing”.

Every two days, a construction worker commits suicide in Australia. The industry makes up a disproportionate 6.3% of national suicides. And, shockingly, a construction worker is 6 times more likely to die from suicide than in a physical accident.

According to founder Joel:

"It gets worse when you look at the statistics behind people who committed suicide with 93% of them either not asking for help or knowing where to look for it."

It was during his own time in the trades, witnessing his mates experiences and then later working with a construction-focused support service called Oz Help in Canberra, that Joel was exposed to the severity of mental health in the industry.

There are 66,000 small construction businesses in Australia. At this end of the market, EAPs are often non-existent as their business models tend to only work for larger national organisations. Because these small businesses make up a larger percentage of the workforce than national construction companies, there’s a lot of impact to be made.

Meet the founder

Joel is an experienced entrepreneur and systems engineer, gone technical.

Over the past decade, he’s used his combination of skills to problem solve across the federal government, private enterprise, and higher education. He’s been involved in several successful startups across the automotive, mental health and tech spaces.

Now he’s hyper focused on creating seamless and beautiful customer experiences that utilise emerging technologies to create positive impact.

Joel is joined by Clinical Director and counsellor Elizabeth Kirk, who has a counselling and research background, and helps drive Foremind’s content creation, and CTO Brad Martin, who. brings over 15 years experience creating innovative solutions to complex problems using modern technology frameworks.

Meet the product

Foremind automates the process of seeking mental health support on site and prioritises proactive prevention over crisis mitigation.

Critically, there’s no need to make that daunting first phone call.

Joel says:

Workers have the tech literally in their pockets, accessing the platform via their smartphones. They can choose a counsellor from a selection of headshots, and view their calendars to make an appointment. They choose the medium - phone call, video call, or in person.

Everything is tailored to construction workers, with different modules covering topics relevant to them (partnerships, injury, even the difficulty they might face if they can’t play team sport anymore).

Workers are empowered to self evaluate. The platform offers wellness check-ins based on the Beyond Blue K10 methodology - asking 10 questions, scoring your distress levels, and making recommendations (a higher score will pull you into the counsellor workflow).

From the client side, the administrator can see statistics like who's logging on, from where, how often, and what content they're engaging with (the workers remain anonymous). The interface shows a usage chart for each site the client manages, so they can see overall well being across individual sites.

The financials are appealing. Return on investing in people and wellbeing aside, Joel has calculated - depending on the membership plan - the platform may cost employers no more than a portaloo.

The platform is something of a two sided marketplace, linking workers with individual counsellors.

Counsellors can set their availability, connect their calendars, and manage their clients.

It’s an excellent opportunity for counsellors - who often run their own private practices and rely on word of mouth marketing - to grow their business, book their calendars, and refill cancelled slots.

Foremind allows users to access construction sector specific, self paced mental health resources as well the ability to book a time with a counsellor of their choosing.

Breaking ground

The overarching goal is not just improving mental health across construction, but improving understanding within the discipline, creating benchmarks and feeding data back to research organisations.

After Foremind’s start within the University of Canberra’s entrepreneur programme, Skalata can’t wait to work with Joel, Ellie and Brad on the next big goals: 10,000 users on the platform, 10,000 counselling appointments scheduled, and more organisations and universities onboarded from each state and territory.

Social good is undeniably the winner here. But there is return on investment to be made in the space.

Employers think nothing of investing in hardhats and high vis jackets. Foremind wants employers to see worker mental health as an investment.

Kind of like a hard hat for the mind.

Inspired by Foremind's story?