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Silja Litvin of PsycApps: “That we might not need an office”

That people are intrigued with mental health care if stigma is ‘blasted’ away by necessity. After people realize that we all experience mental health — as a sliding scale — they become very interested in psychology and mental health care, such as prevention programs, resilience skills and therapy. COVID has forced the discourse of mental health care upon us, […]

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That people are intrigued with mental health care if stigma is ‘blasted’ away by necessity. After people realize that we all experience mental health — as a sliding scale — they become very interested in psychology and mental health care, such as prevention programs, resilience skills and therapy. COVID has forced the discourse of mental health care upon us, so now it’s ‘safe’ for most people to be open and discuss their own mental health.


As a part of our series called 5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Silja Litvin, Psychologist and Founder of PsycApps. PsycApps uses gaming, AI and current research to build evidence-based mental health games for young adults. Her product, eQuoo is the only game available in the NHS Apps Library.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Thank you for having me. I am a half-German, half-American psychologist living in London. I financed my studies by modeling internationally, went to work at the NHS and then private practice. Following that, I founded my start-up because I realized that we as mental health professionals weren’t reaching enough people and our help was coming way too late. As said by Professor Peter Fonagy, “If every psychologist would work 50-hour weeks without lunch, they would only meet 12% of the mental health care needs.” I determined that while a therapist isn’t scalable, a digital tool is, so I launched PsycApps.

What has been the biggest adjustment while working from home from your in-person workplace? Can you please share a story or example?

The biggest adjustment is that I have been growing a company and haven’t even met two-thirds of my new team members in-person — something that wouldn’t have been imaginable before COVID! Not being able to sit around a table and brainstorm or shake my colleague’s hand has been painful at times.

What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?

What I miss most is being able to see people in-person. I had twins about 4 months into the first lockdown and none of my family or friends have been able to visit or hold them yet. They have started crawling now and still haven’t been cuddled by their grandparents. It’s heart-breaking. On a more superficial side, I have also been missing treating myself. As a new mom, I’d absolutely love a proper massage in a proper spa followed by a restaurant visit.

The pandemic was a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic? What do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response?

During the first wave of the pandemic, I loved how people were seeing the positive environmental impact that life slowing down had on the air, the water and other aspects of nature. There was no way to ignore that we CAN make a change and that it will be visible. Unfortunately, in the following waves, I feel that we moved into a bit of a survival mode and the economic impact could potentially slow the process down.

And, of course, it’s been absolutely wonderful that the pandemic has forced mental health front and center of the social discourse. We fast-forwarded the general understanding of mental health care needs and the uptake of programmes by 5 years at least. Every person and their dog know that mental health is a ‘thing’ now. It’s also been inspiring to see so many companies change their tune and prioritize their employee’s mental health.

How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?

Anything I could keep up by transferring it to digital, I did. I still do exercise classes, hang out with my friends and family, and I’ve kept up learning new things — it’s just all through Zoom now. Every day I take two walks, no matter the weather, and I work actively on my gratitude and resilience exercises. It’s become second nature now to find small things that bring me great joy. For example, the trees in front of our Mews are starting to blossom, and it’s a bit silly how happy that makes me.

What has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort, or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?

This is quite specific, but I had my twins during the lockdown, and we were not allowed to have visitors in the hospital. Having your first children without your partner is tough. Especially twins. The first few days in the hospital were a bit traumatic, and it’s taken me until now to work through it. I coped with it by practicing what I preach (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and leaning heavily on my partner, my family, as well as my Co-Founder, Vanessa Hirsch-Angus.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)

That I’m much more of an introvert than I thought. Back in my traveling-for-work days, I would be out socially from Wednesday to Sunday. I don’t know if it’s simply me getting old, the twins or that I’m more of an introvert than I thought, but I only just recently started missing a night out.

That where you are in your current life cycle has a huge impact on how you perceive global events. Depending on who I talk to, and where they are in their lives, the impact the pandemic has had was dramatically different. A student I spoke to said it has been the worst year of his life, while a CEO I know moved to the Caribbean to work remotely with his wife, and they are having a blast.

That we might not need an office. My team and I are working together extremely efficiently despite not ever meeting in-person. I think we will keep this up in the future, if possible, and have weekly in-person meetings somewhere instead.

That beliefs are the leading driver of behaviour, not rational. I clearly remember being very impressed by learning the difference between internal and external attribution at Uni. This simply means whether you think a situation has come to be through choice or happenstance. Someone with an internal attribution belief will be much less likely to give money to a homeless person because they believe that the homeless person’s choices ultimately led them to be homeless. Someone with an external attribution belief will think that external events like being unlucky, disadvantaged, mentally ill and other factors have had an effect. In that regard, I was aware of the power of belief, but I had no inkling of how strong it actually was until mask-deniers started raising their voices. This is going to be one for the battlefields of the future: the opportunity to shape beliefs.

That people are intrigued with mental health care if stigma is ‘blasted’ away by necessity. After people realize that we all experience mental health — as a sliding scale — they become very interested in psychology and mental health care, such as prevention programs, resilience skills and therapy. COVID has forced the discourse of mental health care upon us, so now it’s ‘safe’ for most people to be open and discuss their own mental health.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?

There is the story of the sad King who asked to be healed of his sadness and finally, he received a ring that helped him. It said, “This, too, shall pass.” That is my COVID mantra. It’s a different way of explaining the core philosophy of The Power of Now, too. We will get through this, it will pass, and we will have been a part of global history.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.business.equoogame.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/silja-litvin/

@siljalitvin

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

My pleasure, thank you very much,

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