SME of the Week: BfB Labs

Manjul Rathee CEO of Launchpad company and SME of the Week, BfB Labs, writes about mental health in children and young people, the impact of COVID-19 on this and how BfB Labs have created a patient-centric intervention.

There has never been a more urgent time to tackle mental health in children and young people. One in eight 5 to 19-year-olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed in 2017 (NHS Digital). Early data suggest that anxiety levels in CYP have doubled since the onset of COVID-19. A recent YouGov survey of more than 2,000 parents, showed the devastating reality of how the crisis has impacted millions of families across the UK. Children have felt isolated and lonely, many struggling to sleep or suffering night terrors when they do, and some children are displaying unusually aggressive behaviour. Although 50% of all mental health disorders are established before the age of 14, up to 70% of young people do not get access to evidence-based support.

At BfB Labs we are driven by the belief that children’s mental health interventions need to be scalable, cost-effective, co-created with users; and the people that care for them, and should also be highly engaging whilst being clinically effective. A user-centred approach challenges everyone to consider how to create the best interventions that are accessible to children and their families in ways that they want, when they need it, without adding to the burden on healthcare.

We have partnered with NHS clinicians, children, parents, teachers, a BAFTA award-winning game producer, MindTech UK, and experts at the University of Reading to develop an ecosystem view of the key points of usage of our interventions and the cause-and-effect model in achieving clinical acceptability and safety.

We offer a unique value proposition to meet surging demand with cost-effective digital solutions that can be scaled quickly. Our flagship interventions combine methodologically rigorous user-centred design, scientific and clinical evidence with the ingenuity of emergent technology including mobile games and biofeedback. They meet the highest standards in clinical safety & data security and are CE marked. We have run multiple pilots to validate our interventions in real-world settings.

Our interventions are supported by a secure online portal for authorised professionals to manage users and track detailed intervention progress analytics in real-time. BFB Labs is the UK’s only provider of UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved digital therapeutics for young people with 24/7 secure access to real-time data.

With schools re-opening next month, there is widespread concern that this could further exacerbate mental health issues. Untreated mental health problems can disrupt children’s functioning at home, school, and in their community. Without treatment, children with mental health difficulties are at increased risk of school failure, contact with the criminal justice system, dependence on social services, and even suicide.

We are excited about the prospect of creating new collaborations within the NHS and NHS Integrated Care Systems to improve the availability and effectiveness of our evidence-based mental health interventions for children and young people.

Now is the moment to improve access to mental health support for children and their carers. Now is the moment to improve the mental health of our children. Now is the moment to ensure high-quality mental health is readily available to support children when they need it.