From Clinician to Mental Health AI Revolutionary

Dr Angela Lim, Clearhead

Starting a business is a stressful experience, and founders face greater mental health challenges than their peers. Compounding the issue is the fact that the public health system is experiencing increasing pressures, and access to support is becoming more difficult. Seeking to change this is Tāmaki Makaurau’s own Dr Angela Lim, a former clinician who left a career in medicine to become an innovative entrepreneur. Five years ago, she cofounded Clearhead, a ground-breaking employee assistance programme (EAP) provider.

Mid-career pivot

Woman wearing yellow shirt and black blazer holding tablet
Dr Angela Lim, Clearhead

A paediatric doctor, Dr Lim was training to be a specialist when she decided instead to start her own business. “I saw the systemic problems people faced in accessing mental health care,” she says.

Mental health support should be personalised, effortless, and empowering to individuals. The reality, however, was far from this.

The platform leverages the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to offer personalised therapy experiences, guiding individuals in understanding their triggers and providing customised tools for coping and self-improvement.

Overcoming resistance

Initially, Clearhead targeted government clients, aiming to make a widespread impact via the public sector. However, after two and a half years, there was still suspicion of the AI concept. As with any disruptor, the challenge of introducing new tech was an uphill battle. “We faced resistance from those who benefited from the status quo, hindering progress toward prioritising patient well-being,” Dr Lim says. The team shifted its focus to corporate clients to ensure a sustainable income while proving its ability to provide accessible mental health support.

The success stories of Clearhead testify to the platform’s positive impact on individuals and businesses. In one instance, Clearhead reduced employee turnover by 20 per cent, resulting in substantial cost savings for the employer. And through work with the Ministry of Social Development, Clearhead proved effective in connecting with rural youth. “After three sessions, some rangatahi who were homeless and unemployed were able to find employment,” Dr Lim says. Offering 24/7 digital support, the platform is a game-changer for many who are nervous about traditional support mechanisms, like phone calls, or those who need out-of-hours assistance.

AI and ethics

The importance of mental health is finally gaining recognition in the workplace and wider society. Clearhead aims to be at the forefront of innovation, with its AI-driven platform fostering a psychologically safe and productive work environment for employers and employees alike.

There remain legitimate concerns about data privacy and ethical implications. For while AI-driven platforms can offer personalised support and valuable insights, the collection and processing of sensitive mental health data pose challenges. Protecting confidentiality is crucial, as this information can be highly sensitive and vulnerable to misuse. Clearhead’s platform has been developed with a clinical background and in accordance with Ministry of Health recommendations for privacy and security.

It’s a team effort

Dr Lim admits that her unconventional journey has at times been taxing. Fortunately, she has developed mechanisms to help her through, and she has some tips for those looking to set out on a similar path.

“To cope with the pressures, I prioritise tasks, practise self-care, and rely on a supportive network,” she says. Being a founder can be a lonely experience, and Dr Lim recommends having someone alongside you who can support you through your lows, and vice versa. “Having a co-founder has been invaluable during challenging times, providing much-needed emotional support.

“Embrace the inevitable ambiguity and uncertainty. Build a team that complements your weaknesses, and set realistic expectations. Persevere through adversity; it’s the key to success.”

Find out more about Clearhead: