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The Globe and Mail | Online platform BEACON aims to improve accessibility to mental health resources

Originally published in The Globe and Mail on October 9, 2017 by Andrew Willis


Seven years ago, Bay Street executive Sam Duboc struggled with depression.

Like many type-A personalities, the private-equity investor initially tried to gut it out, treating the problem by ignoring it. Not surprisingly, the approach didn't work; it took professional help to get the co-founder of EdgeStone Capital partners and Loyalty Group Inc. back on course.

Inspired by his own experience, Mr. Duboc dove into mental-health research that showed one in five Canadians suffer from mental illness each year, and that 500,000 people miss work each week due to these issues. In addition, countless others are what Mr. Duboc calls "the walking wounded," showing up for work, but unable to perform at their full potential.

He found that mental illness is the No. 1 source of disability claims and costs the economy in excess of $50-billion annually. And he found that many doctors treat mental illness with a pill: Canadians are the highest per capita users of psychiatric medication in the world.
Out of that deep dive, Mr. Duboc created a company called BEACON that wants to use technology to revolutionize health care in much the same way Amazon used online shopping to shake up retailing.

"There's an urgent need to make mental-health-care solutions accessible and affordable in this country," says Mr. Duboc, BEACON's executive chairman. The BEACON platform is being launched in Ontario on Tuesday, in conjunction with World Mental Health Day. A national rollout is planned for January.

The depression treatment that worked for Mr. Duboc is known as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, a proven approach that helps patients devise coping strategies for overcoming issues. Beacon takes CBT sessions that patients traditionally get in a therapist's office and puts them online. Mr. Duboc pointed out that being online helps remove the stigma related to treatment and eliminates the logistical nightmare of getting to a therapist's office.

There's a significant amount of research showing delivering mental-health services digitally is as effective as meeting face to face. It's certainly cheaper.

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