Asanda Matlhare
Intern Journalist
2 minute read
18 Oct 2021
1:37 am

New app offers free help for mental health

Asanda Matlhare

Panda is possibly a viable way of responding and helping to ‘destigmatise’ mental health issues.

With October being mental health awareness month and as a way of responding to the growing mental health issues through the digital delivery of support and information, clinical psychologist Allan Sweidan and former general manager of Uber Alon Lits recently launched Panda, an app which provides access to free mental health.

Sweidan said he had an interest in making mental health care more accessible.

“Panda was conceived and developed as a viable way of responding to and will also help to ‘destigmatise’ mental health issues,” he said. “As founder and chief executive for a company previously, we built seven psychiatric hospitals in seven years in areas where there was no access to inpatient care. He added users could engage with other app users and complete different activities aimed at helping them.

“Users have free access to the ‘Bamboo Forest’, which allows them to engage with a community of others who may be facing similar challenges,” he said.

“They can also create communities within the Bamboo Forest, aligned with their individual interests or support needs, whether it be depression, financial stress, anxiety, or even guidance for families with loved ones facing mental health challenges,” he said.

Sweidan said although the pandemic had negative effects on people’s lives, it had increased society’s use and acceptance of digital interventions, which paved the way for apps like Panda to have a significant positive impact.

“The app also offers scientifically validated assessment tools to enable users to objectively measure their mental wellbeing and allows users to book up to seven 30-minute text-based chat sessions with mental health professionals over a period of 14 days.

“Future functionality will allow users to book one-on-one sessions with mental health professionals, who host sessions in the Bamboo Forest or are listed in the marketplace section of the app.”

Co-CEO Lits said technology had made an incredible impact in everyday lives.

“In my time with Uber, I had first-hand experience of the massively positive impact technology can have on the economy and on the lives of individuals and families. The Panda app is available on the Apple and Android app stores for free.

– asandam@citizen.co.za