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On a mission to change mental health care as we know it: Dr. Outi Hilgert

On this International Women’s Day, we are putting the spotlight on thewomen at Meru Health, who are passionate about creating the new standard in mental health care. Dr. Outi Hilgert,MD, is the VP of Clinical Development at Meru Health. She is fearlessly pushing the boundaries of what is known tobe possible in mental health treatments and making it more holistic, compassionate, and empowering.

It was the turning point for Outi. For a full year, she had been thinking what her next step would be. As a physician and a licensed mindfulness-based stress reduction teacher she had previously had her own clinic where she had been treating people struggling with depression, anxiety, burnout, and a variety of other mental and chronic health issues. She knew that she wanted to make a larger impact in this world and build mindfulness-based interventions as part of medical treatments that are not at the moment really existing. This was the moment when she met Kristian, the CEO and founder of Meru Health. He explained that he is building an app-based treatment program for depression. An app! That was exactly what Outi was looking for, a way to use the knowledge she had been gathering for decades for a purpose that could potentially help millions of people.

That was four years ago. Since then, Outi has been in charge of the therapy development at Meru Health. And the outcomes of the program are incredible: 2-3 times better than the standard of mental health care in the U.S. today.

What’s the best part about her work at Meru Health? “That we are creating something completely new. The majority of medical treatments are focused on relieving the symptoms, not treating the root cause. We teach people to understand themselves and their mind, their feelings, their bodily sensations, and what can cause or worsen their depression. What truly inspires me is that we are empowering people, equipping them with tools to take care of themselves. And that we can bring methods like mindfulness, these “soft aspects” part of the “hard medicine”. They are evidence-based and we can measure it, and it is undeniable at that point, that it works.”

Now she is continuously developing the therapy program and managing the overall direction of the program at Meru Health. But she does not want to stop there. Outi wants to change how we see mental health in the future: “My dream is that just like we learn writing or reading, these skills we teach in the program would be already learned at school. We can nowadays teach people how our mind works, how to manage emotions and how to relate to them, what information they tell us and what we can learn from them. We could teach everyone these skills and how to apply them in difficult situations and how to communicate our emotions and needs in a non-violent way to other people. The world would be a lot better place if we all had these skills. I want to teach people these skills so that they would have more freedom in their lives…the freedom to be themselves.”

Still have questions? Ask away.