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5 Min Read

Spotlight on: Bethan Zalantai, US Care Operations Manager

4 May 2023

For both US Mental Health Awareness Month, and the upcoming UK Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke with US Care Operations Manager Bethan Zalantai for our latest spotlight interview. She told us about her background and her role here at ieso, her experience as a mental health practitioner, and mental health awareness in the US and the UK. Bethan has a unique perspective as she has lived in and worked for ieso in both geographies.

Hi Bethan. Can you tell us about your career background and your role at ieso?

I began my career as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) working for the UK National Health Service (NHS) and had the privilege of experiencing the tremendous work that healthcare professionals are committed to achieving. I stumbled across ieso at the end of 2019 when I was feeling lost and frustrated by the long wait lists and lack of access to therapy. I was only looking for flexible affiliate work to keep me afloat whilst I studied for a master's in health psychology, and here I am over 3 years later!  

Since then, I've played various roles across different teams, growing and developing in ways I could never have imagined as a Referrals Coordinator, Senior PWP, Clinical Product Advisor, and now US Care Operations Manager. In my current role I am working on establishing and running ieso’s customer and member support services and clinical delivery model in the US, as well as more broadly developing business functions that affect the patient experience. One of the reasons I'm so passionate about this role is because it enables me to draw on my past experiences and empathize with both the healthcare providers and patients we support with our digital products.

You’ve moved from being a redirect provider of care to the business side, for a company building digital mental health products. What motivated you to make that transition?

What I initially loved about working as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) for ieso was being able to meet people where they're at, both physically (since there was no longer a need to travel) and in their mental health journey. I was blown away by ieso's ability to respond quickly to referrals, maintain short waitlists, and provide quality care. It didn't take me long to realize that it's through digital innovation that we will tackle the critical barriers and problems posed by the current healthcare system, and this will mean that more people will be able to recover, and quicker. When ieso began its journey into developing digital solutions I was offered the amazing opportunity to be involved, taking a Product Advisor capacity. This was really the point at which I felt like it was finally possible to make an impact of the magnitude that is needed in the world. As a PWP, you can only see as many people as you can fit into a day, but digital solutions have the ability to increase access to quality and affordable care on a much larger scale.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US, and next week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Do you see any similarities between the two countries in terms of mental health awareness and what needs to be done to break down stigma around it?

Mental health awareness is important because it affects people's journey to seeking help and starting therapy. When I think about mental health awareness, I am prompted to reflect on some of the people that I’ve worked with... The postpartum mom who felt incredible guilt for not feeling joy when she felt she should. She didn't realize she was experiencing depression, and this prevented her from seeking care. The young man who was taught not to speak about his negative feelings. He thought that he was abnormal and was afraid to talk about it due to cultural stigma. The woman who had encountered a traumatic event and didn't have the language to express her experience. Their journeys to care were each unique, and yet similar in their nature of being prolonged by a lack of awareness and the stigma associated with seeking help.

One thing that shocked me when I moved to America was hearing that despite a very different healthcare system, a lot of the same problems exist here as in the UK. For example, I had always assumed that if you pay for mental healthcare (a standard in the US, but not the UK) then you should expect quick access to high-quality treatment, but I soon learned this was not the case. I believe problems like these significantly hinder our ability to break down stigma and increase mental health awareness. This applies not just to these two countries, but globally.

Thinking about what needs to be done, the starting point is clear to me. Consider, how can we normalize a treatment that so many of us don't have access to? How can we break down the stigma and increase trust in services that have months, or years-long waiting lists? If we don't have access to the care we need, we will continue to feel stuck, lacking awareness and insight into helping ourselves. Ultimately, we will continue to feel ashamed, stigmatized, and misunderstood by the people around us.

To learn more about how you can raise Mental Health Awareness in the US, read NAMI’s guide here. To get involved in the UK, visit the Mental Health Foundation’s page here.

We spoke to Bethan Zalantai, ieso's US Care Operations Manager, for our latest spotlight interview.