She had depression when she was 10 and battled leukaemia in her 20’s. Yet, she found the drive and strength to develop a revolutionary app, Bravely, to provide an evidence-based approach to overcoming mental wellness challenges. Meet the amazing Melissa Ng, a Singaporean who drew strength from her journey to help others.
Q. Can you share with us your mental health challenges that you faced over the years?
Melissa Ng: It started when I was a kid. At only 10 years old, I didn't even know the term "mental health". But I knew what depression was, and I realised early on that I had it. Over the next couple of decades, my mental health deteriorated even more. Throughout my twenties, I spent most days in a depressing, anxious existing with years of fighting suicidal tendencies.
In order to cope, I threw myself into work. Trying to be perfect and successful is one of the least kind things you can do to yourself! It all came to a head when I couldn't bounce back from the years of burnout and unhappiness. No amount of travel or distractions could numb the pain.
I left the business – a global product design studio – that I had started at 21. That I had poured my blood, sweat and tears into. I just couldn't do it any longer.
After years of therapy, and having supportive friends and an amazing partner, I slowly started to recover. I learned skills to cope with bad feelings, changed my perspective and mindset around my own mental health. And I channelled that into a purpose-filled business, Bravely.
Q. As a cancer survivor who has battled leukaemia, how have you observed that physical health can impact mental wellness?
Melissa: There's no doubt that physical illnesses take its toll on one's mental health. It's shocking just how much you take for granted when you're healthy, and despair when you lose it all while being sick.
Once you've been touched by a serious, potentially fatal chronic illness, life never goes back to the old normal. You live with that every day.
Only yesterday, I wrote a poem about how this new normal feels:
The grim reaper stood,
Patient, at the foot of my bed.
Not far from where my head rests,
I see him over there.
I can’t seem to say a word.
Everyone else seems unaware.
I hear their worried voices
fill the heavy air.
“It can be your time” he tells me,
“If the pain is more than you can bear”.
His heavy question dulls the ache,
Quietly it lingers there.
It was a merciful offer,
A kind extended hand.
That tempting moment stood in time,
I wondered: did I dare?
Finally, I turn to tell him
As the day slips away,
“I’m not yet ready,
I think I’m going to stay.”
30 stares down at me,
Asking if I will get there.
I always dreaded getting old
The irony is unfair.
Death hasn’t yet gotten me,
But he lingers in the air.
His fingerprints are on my skin,
I know he’s waiting for me there.
Q. Please tell us more about your app, Bravely. What inspired you to start this? What do you hope to achieve?
Melissa: My mental health has improved leaps and bounds thanks to my therapist and a lot of hard, hard work. But that road was so much more difficult than it really should have been.
Bravely is working to supercharge therapy. We believe that spending only 0.27% of your time – if you do therapy twice a month – on your mental health is a painfully slow way to get better. My team and I are building intuitive, beautiful tech solutions to help therapists work with people. Our goal is to fill the spaces between therapy sessions with useful data and knowledge that allow you and your therapist to collaboratively supercharge your progress.
Q. What are some achievements or milestones that the app has achieved?
Melissa: We're super proud of the fact that Bravely was voted best remote workplace in 2021! We've had thousands of people use Bravely, and was voted "most fundable startup" by renowned Calm and Uber investor, Jason Calacanis.
Q. Many young adults who are in their first job may face mental health challenges adapting to the adulting world. What is your best advice for them?
Melissa: Budget time and money for your mental health. Don't only invest into your physical and financial health.
Don't live your life according to what society and even your loved ones want for you. If you live your life for someone else, you will regret it when you're on your deathbed. Trust me, I know!
What is Bravely?
The Bravely app is a holistic and evidence-based approach to mental health. It aims to help users find calm against anxiety and distress, and gain the right insights to bravely work towards a healthier, happier mind. Melissa Ng drew on her own struggles with her mental health and spotted a gap: the world lacks accessible help and approachable resources.
Bravely aims to “supercharge therapy”. Both therapists and individuals can utilise Bravely’s ever-growing library of guidebooks, interactive activities, trackers and outcome measures. All content is backed by science. Their contributors have background as clinical psychologists or write in the areas of neuroscience, research, and applied psychology. “From studies on motivation and behavioural science, to research on how you process adversity, to strategies to work with your body’s nervous system and regain control of your anxiety — these scientific conclusions shape Bravely into a tool that lets you improve your mental health with a backing of scientific research you can trust,” according to the app.
By helping users access relevant resources as and when they need it, it hopes to empower you to bravely work towards a healthier, happier mind.
Download the Bravely app free at Google Play or App store. You can also find out more about it at bravely.io.