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Is this employee healthcare platform the answer to fighting stigma around mental health?

A mental healthcare platform for employees, Oliva is seeking to break down existing barriers, so that people can receive the help they need, when they need it.

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Founded in 2020, Oliva combines the entrepreneurial mindsets of Javier Suarez and Sançar Şahin – previously of and Typeform respectively – with the expertise of clinician Dr Sarah Bateup, to provide a solution for mental health that is accessible to all, regardless of social stigma and capacity for cost, time and effort.


It’s a cause close to their hearts, with the founding pair starting Oliva as a solution to the problems they themselves faced in finding the right mental health support. For Sançar, burnout culminated in an unreasonable response to an incorrect food delivery. For Javier, the stress and pressure from his work life impacted his time at home. Both of them reached a ‘crunch’ point, because they felt support was too difficult to find or sustain in the long-term, and both battled with the stigma that surrounds admitting something isn’t quite right.

Interview with Sançar Şahin, CMO and Co-founder

“We believe that stigma is one of the biggest barriers preventing people from accessing high-quality mental health care. People want to hide that they’re seeing a therapist from friends and family, as they're worried it might sound like there's something very wrong. They think it's better to deal with things themselves than have a helping hand.”

Sançar Şahin, CMO and Co-founder

This is where Oliva comes in. Recognising that stigma and work commitments can be a barrier to accessing proper mental healthcare, Oliva is Europe’s first mental healthcare solution that covers a broad spectrum of employee mental health needs, while tackling the barriers that present themselves around accessing mental health in the workplace. 


Combining a carefully curated team of highly qualified mental health professionals, hand-picked by Dr Sarah Bateup, Oliva assesses employee needs on a case-by-case basis, matching them with a specialised therapist for their requirements. Through their easy-to-use digital platform, they also offer dedicated training and support for managers, developing understanding so that employees receive support when they need it – not just when their sessions might be.


For Oliva, it’s this training that is key for breaking down stigma within the workplace. Instead of merely helping HR departments tick boxes, the company offers real help for organisations to make a real impact on their employees’ lives – and, in turn, their performance. And because Oliva sells to businesses, mental healthcare becomes an employee benefit for the whole team, removing the barrier of cost for the individual.

“The first immediate impact is getting rid of a couple of those barriers that are preventing people from even being able to entertain the idea of reaching out for support, and one of the biggest ones is cost.”

Sançar Şahin, CMO and Co-founder

Already, they’re receiving excellent feedback from employees, who have reached out to Sançar and Javier personally to credit the platform for ‘saving their life’. To these employees, therapy has always seemed out of reach – for cost, time, or reasons surrounding stigma – however Oliva has ‘made it really easy’. What’s more, 98% of people going through the service have reported back that they’re making meaningful progress towards their individual goals. From an analytical perspective, employees are also scoring better on GAD-7 and PHQ-9 surveys (used to measure anxiety and depression) once they’ve attended a few sessions.


         So, can a platform like Oliva really set a new standard for mental healthcare in the workplace? The feedback so far appears to point in a positive direction, and it’s clear that’s the real goal here. While buzzwords like burnout are often passed around casually in the workplace, Oliva hopes to normalise the idea that mental wellbeing should be regarded with the same importance as physical health, and that it’s something that needs to be practised every day.


Life is full of ups and downs, and it’s very unlikely that will change – indeed for any of us, let alone those struggling with their mental health. However, with Oliva, navigating those ups and downs without fear of stigma or means of accessibility might just make the journey a little easier.


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