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Bridging the gap of mental health access of underserved youth and women in Central America

Connect underserved youth and young adults with mental health professionals using an affordable and confidential web-based app

Photo of Victor Juárez
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Where are you located (country)?


Where are you located (city or town)?


You are submitting as:

  • An organization

If part of an organization or group, what is the name?

Tu Consejeria

What is your organization or group’s website? (If applicable)

How does your proposed solution support emerging middle-class families in urban areas in the Global South to adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Confinement and mobility restrictions, are having serious impacts on the mental health of thousands of Guatemalans and Central Americans, especially women, youth, frontline health workers, as well as other traditionally excluded groups such as forced returnees, indigenous populations and people who depend on informal or temporary employment. The lack of mental health support is evident outside major cities and the current pandemic has made the need of services more demanded than before. The region, particularly Guatemala, faces with rooted problems such as migration , violence and corruption. I believe that by working with youth and their mental health we can change all these problems. Making them more aware of values, feeling better about themselves and specially, creating a new culture of self-appreciation that will make them want to stay in the country and to work to develop it. here's a feeling of loneliness, lack of aspirations, low self-esteem, depression. We can change that and take advantage of their connectivity and use of technology in urban areas.

What stage of development is your Idea in?

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

What tier are you applying to?

  • Global South Open Prize Tier: Open to submissions focused on any country in the Global South, at any stage of development.

Do you intend to implement your idea in Peru?

  • Not sure

In what countries do you expect to implement your idea initially (in the first 2 years)?

Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador.

Feasibility: where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve accomplished to date, what barriers to implementation might exist, and what next steps you plan to take.

Because of Covid, we offered our service at no cost for 4 months so we could help people to cope with the confinement and the effects of the pandemic. We have helped more than 400 people since then which allowed us to realize how needed mental health is in our country. Our main barrier is the stigma around asking for help from a psychologist, but since our web-based app is chat-based, users access it without no one knowing they are in fact communicating with a therapist. Confidentiality is key for our service plus affordability. 90% of our users have never communicate with a psychologist before, we are in fact closing the gap of mental health support. Our next steps include more education around the importance of mental health, increase our users base partnering with organizations that are already working with underserved populations, and offer our service in our neighbor countries.

Viability: what needs to be true for you to be able to implement your idea? What stakeholders, partnerships and resources might be required to implement this solution?

So far, is key for people to understand the importance of taking care of their mental health. All our 400+ users have find us very useful and realize this now. Wee need to educate and, above all, be close to the people when they feel more vulnerable. Technology let us do this, and we have seen that most of our users start communicating at night or outside working hours. We want to partner with gyms since their clients already understand the importance of physical health, the interconnection with mental health will then be evident for them and see our service as a good option, too. We want to partner too with organizations that work with youth and women, so we give their beneficiaries the opportunity to access professional mental health support that will only help them reaching their life goals together with the organization goals. We want to be able to work with low-income private schools and public schools so they can give this same service to their students and offer them mental health support.

Adaptability: how does your idea adapt to frequent changes within the context you are implementing, due to COVID-19? Consider the rapidly shifting government policies, and healthcare economic realities that might influence end users.

We think that governments finally will pay attention to mental health. In Guatemala and the region, is hard to find mental health professionals outside capital cities. The cost of transportation is something to consider too, which is why our service is web-based. We are ready for governments willing to invest in their people's mental health, or to create awareness about its importance. Our service is affordable since we are designed for an underserved population. If all, we would welcome any government support so we can reach more people, including other important groups such as victims of violence, elders, forced returnees, entrepreneurs, among others .


Join the conversation:

Photo of Raul Briceño Brignole

Welcome to the challenge Victor Juárez and thanks for applying! We would love to hear your plans to improve the education around the importance of mental health and how are you planning to partner with other organizations working in underserved areas. And also, how would your growth strategy adapt to the current COVID-19 context to generate bigger impact in the short term? Thanks!!

Photo of Victor Juarez

Hi, Raúl. Thank you for your questions and for welcoming to the challenge. Education around mental health is one of our main challenges. In order for us work around the stigma of psychologic support, awareness and education is needed. We have developed a couple of solutions, one is a live show we have every Sunday on our social media to discuss different mental health related topics. We also developed a series of talks around mental health that we have been implementing with different organizations, from NGO's to private companies. We believe that there's a need of information, specially unbiased. We are in the process of starting these talks and other conversations with youth through a USAID funded project and the alumni association of the State Department (I'm an alumnus, too). I believe this partnerships will help us to find other organizations that believe in mental health support. Regarding your COVID-19 question, for us it's been helpful that people are finally realizing how important mental health is. This pandemic brought a lot of attention to this, so we want to be out there talking about it and offering affordable and accessible solutions for our youth and underserved populations that tend to be forgotten.
I hope this helps, but I'm more than happy to keep the conversation going. Best regards from Guatemala!

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