Q&A with Moment Health CEO Nuala Murphy

We are delighted to announce that Nuala Murphy, CEO, Moment Health is joining us as a member of our Board of Advisors.

Today is World Maternal Mental Health Day and we are proud to publish this interview with Moment Health CEO Nuala Murphy.


Please meet the newest member of our Board of Advisors at International Forum for Wellbeing in Pregnancy as she describes her inspirational journey:

Q. Why are you so passionate about Maternal Mental Health?

My career as a marketing director (I became Chartered in 2010 and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing) has always seen me working in the healthcare and technology sectors.

When I started my own family a few years ago, I became aware of the gap between the need for maternal mental health care, and the availability of services – in Northern Ireland, for example, the Maternal Mental Health Alliance has estimated that up to 80 percent of the population here does not have access to Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Services.

To say I was horrified to learn this is nothing of an overstatement – why are we not looking after vulnerable new mums and dads? And what can we do about it? It’s the reason I began to think of a possible solution that could be far-reaching and easily accessible and decided that developing an app would be best.

I’ve been working in this area for almost two years now and my passion to help has grown from day one. The research outcomes and statistics that currently exist – for example, that 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men experience symptoms of depression or anxiety during the perinatal period; that 1 in 4 pregnant women have mental health problems; that almost a quarter (23 percent) of women who died between six weeks and one year after pregnancy died from mental health-related causes – act as fuel to drive me to realise my goal – to make maternal mental health services mainstream – every single day.

Q. What do you feel is missing in the field of Maternal Mental Health in the UK and globally? What gap would you like to bridge through your work?

While I think we could talk for days about various ways to improve maternal mental health services, both locally and globally, one that I feel needs to be highlighted – and one that I’m aiming to help solve, through Moment Health – is the importance of early intervention.

 Research shows that through early intervention, there is an 80-90 percent chance of recovery for those experiencing perinatal depression or associated anxiety. The sooner a parent can recognise signs and symptoms in themselves, and the earlier they can find and access perinatal mental health services, the better his or her chance of successfully recovering.

Being aware of these signs and symptoms and knowing what to look for is an important first step – a lot of people don’t know what to look out for. Many end up suffering in silence, too. Some because they aren’t aware these changes could be due to depression, and some don’t say anything for fear of judgment. One study found that one in five women suffering signs of postpartum mood disorders didn’t report her symptoms to her doctor, for fear of being stigmatised. 

This needs to change! New mums and dads deserve to know that they’re not going mad – and to understand that it’s certainly not a sign of failure in any slight way. It’s a sign they are suffering a treatable illness. Early intervention helps pave the way for successful recovery.

Q. Could you please tell us more about your app? What device would people require to access this?

The Moment Health app launched in November 2017 and is available for both iOS and Android devices.

The key purposes of the app are (1) to help parents detect any changes to their moods or emotions that could have a negative impact on their mental health, (2) to help parents locate services and support convenient to them, and (3) to give parents the opportunity to access peer support, which we know can help in the prevention and treatment of perinatal mental ill health.

We know parents are extremely busy, so the app has been developed with both security and ease of user experience in mind. It offers four clear functions:

1. A Symptoms Checker, which incorporates the 10-question Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, to help parents identify whether they are at risk for perinatal depression.

2. An Emotion Tracker, which allows the user to record their feelings and detect any changes in their mood from day to day. It also delivers weekly reports to help identify triggers of negative mood patterns.

3. Instant access, via the app, to the Moment Health Community, a non-judgemental safe space that provides peer support and advice for new parents.

4. A Locator tool to help mums and dads find recommended professional support and resources based on their location.

Q. Is the information on the App available in other languages?

Considering we only launched the app a few short months ago, we’re incredibly proud that the Moment Health app is already available in Ireland, the UK, and the US. As the year progresses, we plan to roll out to new markets, and absolutely to make it available in other languages.

Q. Is the information available on the App suitable for the rich countries like UK and USA? Is this valuable for the resource-poor countries too?

One of the innovations I’m most proud of when it comes to the Moment Health app is that it allows users instant access to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale in a user-friendly way that digital natives have come to expect – that’s a world first. 

I think regularly checking for signs and symptoms of perinatal depression, and getting into the habit of quickly tracking emotions every day – particularly during vulnerable life stages or events – with just one or two quick taps, is something that can benefit a lot of people. The Moment Health app was developed with new parents in mind, but it’s features like this that also make it beneficial to parents at any age and life stage.

Unfortunately, we know that perinatal depression does not discriminate – it affects people of all ages, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. Perinatal ill health in low- and middle-income countries is well documented, and no matter what background the sufferer has, PND or an associated anxiety can have a devastating and long-reaching effect on the mother, the child, it can extend into the family and have a lasting inter-generational impact too.

It’s my mission to improve maternal mental health services on a global scale. I’m determined to #MakeItMainstream.

Q. Is this free to download? Is there any online support service available if someone develops/identifies with mental health crisis?

We launched the app as free to download, and we plan to keep it as accessible as possible so that people can easily access it and the support it offers as a complementary tool to seeking professional advice, treatments, and care.

We are also in the process of launching our corporate offering, which allows businesses to offer their employees the Moment Health app as an add-on to their current healthcare package, or as a standalone tool, they can make available to staff – thus further opening up the market availability and accessibility of our products.

Q. Is there any information for the dads/partners?

I know the general focus is often on maternal mental health – and that’s exactly one of the reasons it’s been so important to me from the outset that we’ve always acknowledged paternal mental health and developed a product that helps new parents: mums and Perinatal mental health can affect mothers and fathers, of course, and our app is developed to service new and expectant mums and dads.

As a side offering to our app, we also have a comprehensive blog on our website, which covers a whole range of topics that tie into the main thread of perinatal mental health, including this entry that covers helpful ways to support a partner with PND.

While that post is aimed at dads, it could just as easily be applied to mums looking for ways to support their partners through paternal mental ill health.

Q. How do you ensure that the information provided is evidence-based and up-to-date?

We’ve worked with a team of clinicians, medical professionals and advisors from the outset to help us develop products and offerings that will be of benefit to parents and 100 percent be an effective complementary tool in the treatment of perinatal mental health issues.

 As I mentioned earlier, my background isn’t a medical one, so I’ve worked hard from day one to have the right qualified people around me to ensure we are offering something that is going to be effective and up-to-date.

On top of that, we are partnered with Ulster University. There, Dr. Anne Moorhead and Dr. Raymond Bond are invested in examining how mental health and wellbeing can be measured and supported using digital technology, which made Moment Health a great fit for the University’s ‘Healthy Communities’ theme as part of its Five And Fifty Strategic Plan. Our app is currently going through a clinical trial to prove, and improve, its efficacy – something I’m beyond proud of and excited about.

Q. Please tell us about your team who are supporting your outstanding work.

One of the things I’m most proud of since beginning my entrepreneurial journey is selecting a great team to help me realise our collective mission to Make Maternal Mental Health Mainstream. I’ve never been under the illusion I could do this without them.

The first appointment I made was partnering with Gavin Rooney, our Chief Technology Officer. When I posted the opportunity, I received a huge amount of correspondence from highly skilled applicants. What struck me most about Gavin, and made him stand out from the crowd, wasn’t only his impressive track record working with companies such as Ding and Intercom, but that he bought into our mission from the beginning. As soon as I pitched Moment Health to him, Gavin threw his hands in the air and said, “Let’s do this!” You have to find people who are passionate and invested in your company’s mission – that’s my Golden Rule when it comes to hiring.

I’m also incredibly grateful to have incredibly skilled and experienced medical professionals and business people on board, including our chairman Noel Brady, our business advisors Sarah Friar and Ivy McFarlane, and our clinical advisors Dr. Richard Bunn and Dr. Samina Dornan.

It’s a team like this, coupled with our partnerships with Ulster University and organisations such as the Maternal Mental Health Alliance that is helping ensure our innovations remain up-to-date, efficient, effective.

Q. Tell us about the Maternal Mental Health Conference happening in May.

On May 3 (2018), Moment Health is taking part in – and proud sponsors of – Northern Ireland’s inaugural Maternal Mental Health Conference, taking place at Queen’s University. We’ve partnered with the National Childbirth Trust, Sure Start, PANGS NI and renowned perinatal mental health blogger Linsday Robinson (Have You Seen That Girl?), and official speakers on the day include Seána Talbot, President of the National Childbirth Trust, and Michelle Bradley, Founder of PANGS NI Peer Support Group.

Together, we’ve all worked really hard to curate a program that will facilitate uniting those in the health service, private sector, third sector and service users to collaborate and find impactful ways to reduce the effects perinatal mental illness has on its sufferers, children, and future generations.

Although it’s a sold-out event, those interested can still join the waitlist. The support and positive reception the Conference has received so far fuels us further to champion change, and find new ways to collaborate, innovate and #MakeItMainstream.

Q. And the #CheckYourSymptoms campaign?

May 2nd is World Maternal Mental Health Day. It’s a day when organisations and charities around the world associated with maternal mental health will be raising awareness about MMH through social media campaigns, local initiatives, and global conversations.

For our part, Moment Health has developed a #CheckYourSymptoms campaign, and we’re hoping it will ripple out far and wide, and help as many people as possible know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of perinatal mental health issues.

In the lead up to World Maternal Mental Health Day, we will be fuelling a #CheckYourSymptoms conversation across our channels to highlight the importance of self-awareness during the perinatal period and the beneficial impacts of early intervention; and releasing fresh, shareable content that will help people to understand the signs and symptoms to look out for so that they can protect themselves and their loved ones.

With #CheckYourSymptoms, our aim is simple: to inform, to educate, to empower. Roll on May 2nd!