echo interview, November 2023

Stigmatisation of mental health problems has to stop


echo interview with Andrea Jansen

Andrea Jansen, journalist, entrepreneur and founder of the platform “Any Working Mom”

elipslife echo: Ms Jansen, you have many different strings to your bow. You’re an entrepreneur, journalist, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees member. And you’re also the mother of three children. Isn’t there a risk of biting off more than you can chew?
Andrea Jansen: The risk is certainly there (laughs). My work comprises three main areas: the first and biggest is “Any Working Mom”, the online platform for parents. Secondly, I’m a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jansen PrimeSteps Foundation, a foundation that provides start-up assistance to projects aiming to fight poverty sustainably. And thirdly, I’m a member of the Board of Directors of the mental health start-up Aepsy. In addition, I pursue a large number of smaller projects, have three children, a partner, a life and friends, all of whom are very, very important to me. The question of whether all this is too much is therefore absolutely justified.

Do you also ask yourself the same question?
Regularly. There have been several times when I’ve reached the point where it becomes too much. The issue is therefore something close to my heart. But I’ve never come as close to falling off this cliff again since I’ve had children. I’m conscious that I can’t push myself to the limit any longer because I also have to consider the children. I’m very aware of my own mental health and have learnt to take the alarm signals seriously.

“Any Working Mom” is an independent media platform. It’s financed by a mixture of advertising revenue and e-commerce. Is this concept successful?
Yes, for me personally it’s a success story on several fronts: we’re still here after seven years and are present in the media landscape. We have been self-supporting for three years and are proud of this as economic stability cannot be taken for granted in the media business. For parents and parents-to-be, we are a place of trust, and our brand is synonymous with our claim “Let’s be honest”. The platform is also a team success. We currently have ten people and I really enjoy the way we work together: remotely, asynchronously, across four countries and even two continents. This works because we trust each other and place value on a healthy working atmosphere.

As its name suggests, the platform is geared to mothers. Is that still appropriate? The trend is moving towards fathers being expected to play an equal role in raising children.
Being expected? More like being allowed to! (Laughs). I’m glad you asked this question. We’re very aware of this issue and are working on a solution. We really want to appeal to men as well. The social change towards equal rights is something that can only be tackled together. We believe that the importance and competency of fathers in caring for children is still underrated. This cannot and must not be allowed to happen.

Why did you become involved as an investor and member of the Board of Directors at Aepsy, a mental health start-up?
This is actually a funny story: I was originally thinking about ways for “Any Working Mom” to develop further. Since many people contact us with concerns that fall within the field of psychotherapy and we also work closely together with a very large number of professionals, the idea arose of bringing together the community we have developed over the years with professionals from the field of psychotherapy. I discovered an Aepsy ad while carrying out market research. This brought me into contact with Nicolas Egger, the founder of Aepsy. I immediately noticed that something was being done here that corresponded to my own idea and values. But I also realised that they were doing it better and were much more advanced in terms of development. When I had the opportunity to join Aepsy, it was a win-win situation for both parties.

Waiting times for psychiatric and psychotherapeutic treatment are long, especially for adolescents. Is Aepsy able to counter this?
Aepsy is certainly able to exert an influence in the desired direction. Many people seek acute psychotherapeutic assistance when the strain is already very high but then face unbelievably long waiting times while the treatment is processed by the basic insurance. The problems frequently get worse during this waiting period, making the healing process more complex and longer. By contrast, Aepsy addresses people throughout Switzerland at an early stage in the development of mental health problems before an actual disorder arises and before treatment is funded via basic insurance. Psychological specialists are often available without having to wait, and treatment times are shorter, leading to a rapid reduction in costs and in the suffering of the person concerned. Would it not be better to be able to speak to a specialist immediately without administrative hurdles by way of first aid and in particular prevention? I very much hope that more insurers will jump on this bandwagon and make this kind of help possible for those affected by supporting preventative measures.

According to the Aepsy website, three out of ten people in Switzerland suffer from mental health challenges, but only 33% of those affected seek support. Why do the other two thirds not do so?
Out of shame. And because of the complicated procedure for gaining access to the right specialist. I would like to see discussions about mental health problems becoming as normal as those about other health challenges. Those affected often do not take their own mental burden seriously enough because the message conveyed in their socio-cultural environment is that “this is simply part of life” or “you have to put up with it”. Accepting help and seeking it need to become normal.

Where do you see the greatest potential for improvement?
In dialogue and education. My approach is always to “talk about it”. A decisive step will have been taken once mental health problems are normalised. I can easily cancel an acquaintance today due to a doctor’s appointment. Why should this not also be a matter of course for psychotherapy? Prejudices and inhibitions about mental health problems still remain widespread today. This stigmatisation has to stop.

How do you rate the services provided by insurers in the area of mental health? Are you aware them?
I haven’t noticed much so far in this area as a customer and therefore conclude that too little is happening. It would be nice if insurance companies covered more services in the field of psychotherapy and psychological counselling, such as those offered by Aepsy, and reimbursed patients accordingly. That would be progress: on the one hand, patients would be referred, hopefully to a specialist who can help. And by the same token, if patients were unable to get on with a specialist, they would not be placed at the bottom of the waiting list again and subjected to a renewed long waiting time but would be able to make contact with a new suitable specialist at the click of a mouse on the Aepsy platform. It might also be worthwhile for employers to be able to offer their employees such support. Prevention is also attractive from an economic perspective: healthy and happy employees also save costs.

Many people, especially the young, are making large parts of their lives public via social media. Does this trend help them to cope with life issues or is it creating more pressure in everyday life?
It goes both ways. I doubt that we actually see real private life on social media – it’s probably more like a curated cut-out of it. Those who reveal everything about themselves over the longer term will become aware that the constant view from outside is extremely stressful.
However, I can also see the positive side of this trend. When someone provides an honest insight into their own life, it creates empathy. If I see, for example, via social media, how someone with a physical disability masters everyday life with all its challenges, that broadens my horizons. I begin to understand that person and their needs and concerns. I wouldn’t recommend making your own life public without a specific concept because you will then no longer have any place of retreat – and that’s something everyone needs.

All pictures © Raphael Hug

Personal Profile
Andrea Jansen
Entrepreneur, journalist, Board member

Andrea Jansen, born in 1980, founded the parent platform “Any Working Mom” in 2016 and is currently responsible for strategy and business development. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the mental health start-up Aepsy since March 2023 and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jansen PrimeSteps Foundation since 2013. Andrea Jansen grew up in Ittigen, near Berne, and studied media and communication sciences at the University of Fribourg. From 2005 until 2011 she worked as a TV presenter for Swiss Television and presented programmes such as “Music Star”, “einfachluxuriös”, “Die grössten Schweizer Talente” and “SF Unterwegs”. The journalist subsequently produced two feature stories for SRF and co-founded the REPORTAGEN magazine. From 2012 until 2018 she was a partner at Andreas & Conrad AG, Switzerland’s largest people agency. Andrea Jansen is married with three children and lives with her family in Hawaii and Zurich.

echo interview with Andrea Jansen