Recapping the news from companies that provide behavioral health care for adolescents.
In an era where adolescents are grappling with a rising tide of mental health conditions, the delay in seeking help is all too common. The struggle to conform to social and cultural norms often forces young individuals into a silence that amplifies their suffering. However, there exists a beacon of hope in the realm of technology that transcends mere entertainment—Virtual Reality (VR). This innovative technology may be a key to addressing the stigma surrounding adolescent mental health while offering truly effective treatment options.
As the landscape of mental health care evolves, VR emerges as a powerful tool to combat the growing crisis affecting our youth. VR, previously synonymous with entertainment and video games, is now poised to revolutionize the way we approach mental health treatment. A question that often arises is: What is VR? In essence, it involves putting on a headset that transports individuals into a meticulously crafted virtual world, complete with visual and auditory stimuli. The impact on one's psychological well-being can be profound.
Consider the example of an individual grappling with a fear of heights. With VR, they can immerse themselves in a simulation where they are precariously perched on a cliff's edge or hurtling down a towering rollercoaster. Similarly, those with social anxiety can practice public speaking in front of a virtual audience, gradually building confidence and reducing their fears. However, the applications extend beyond exposure therapy.
VR seamlessly complements traditional therapeutic methods like dance and music therapy, both enjoyed by youth. It allows individuals to engage in immersive environments where they can "play" musical instruments, offering a therapeutic avenue for reducing anxiety and stress. In essence, VR leverages the passions and interests of adolescents to provide them with a unique, engaging, and effective form of mental health therapy.
Understanding the importance of addressing adolescent mental health is paramount. Their mental well-being significantly impacts their intellectual, emotional, and social development, which, in turn, shapes their future as adults. Poor mental health can hinder the development of autonomy, problem-solving skills, and the ability to thrive in social settings. Recognizing that adolescents often struggle to relate to conventional mental health treatments, VR emerges as a bridge that allows mental health providers to connect with their younger patients effectively.
As the prevalence of mental health conditions among adolescents continues to rise and VR therapy gains traction, it is imperative for the behavioral health community to take proactive steps. The first crucial action is to increase awareness among youth that VR treatment is a viable option. Educating adolescents about the availability of VR as a resource for both entertainment and mental health support is essential.
Furthermore, integrating VR into mental health education within schools presents an exciting opportunity. Given that school-related stressors are a common trigger for adolescent mental health conditions, traditional one-on-one counseling often falls short. By incorporating VR into school mental health education, we can offer more effective results, equipping young individuals with valuable tools for managing their mental well-being.
Finally, as VR technology matures in clinical settings, the next logical step is to provide adolescents with the means to access it in their own environments. This approach offers increased privacy and fosters consistent use of the treatment, ultimately empowering young individuals to take control of their mental health journey.
The convergence of a growing mental health crisis among adolescents and the emerging potential of VR in treatment demands action. By leveraging the power of VR to engage and empower our youth, we can foster a brighter, more mentally resilient generation.
The rise in pediatric mental health cases has become a pressing concern, with overwhelmed emergency departments struggling to meet the increasing demand for care. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation article, young adults (ages 18-24) reported a significant increase in anxiety and depression symptoms in 2023, surpassing older adults. The challenges faced by young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as school and university closures, remote transitions, and social isolation, likely contributed to this concerning trend of poor mental health. This trend has led to overwhelmed emergency departments struggling to provide adequate care and resources for children and adolescents needing mental health services.
Below, we will explore the insights shared during The Pediatric Pandemic, Managing and Advancing the Care of Youth with Behavioral Health Concerns in the ED webinar, shedding light on the factors contributing to this surge and proposing potential solutions.
During the webinar, Dr. Mark Alter, SVP and Chief medical officer of Acute Care at Array Behavioral Care stated, “Early life experience can not only affect individuals but can be transmitted across generations,” emphasizing the significance of addressing mental health concerns early on. According to a study published in JAMA Network, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as trauma, neglect, and abuse, significantly increase the risk of mental health disorders in childhood and later in life. These experiences can have intergenerational effects, highlighting the need for early intervention and support to break the cycle of mental health challenges.
Early intervention programs and initiatives that promote healthy environments and support families can contribute to better mental health outcomes for children. Investing in programs that address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can help break the cycle and prevent the intergenerational transmission of mental health challenges.
The significant increase of 130% in pediatric behavioral health patients, as mentioned by Kyle Finucane, the Director of Behavioral Health at Chester County Hospital (Penn Medicine), reflects a growing need for mental health services among young adults. According to CDC data, from March 2020 to October 2020, mental health-related emergency department visits increased 24% for children ages 5 to 11 and 31% for those ages 12 to 17 compared with 2019 emergency department visits. This trend is not exclusive to the pandemic period—it was already underway before COVID-19.
Limited access to mental health services often leads individuals to seek help in emergency departments, exacerbating the overwhelming situation. Overcoming barriers such as lack of insurance coverage, provider shortages, and insufficient community-based resources is essential.
As Scott Baker, VP of Sales at Array Behavioral Care, points out, “... the longer that the bed is held, despite the fact that the patients oftentimes are not getting better, means that care is being delayed or deferred from other patients, whether they be adult health medical or adult behavioral patients. And that deferred care is just scary, but it has a snowball effect.” This indicates the urgent need to address the strain on emergency departments caused by the increased demand for pediatric mental health services.
Solome Tibebu, Founder and CEO of Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech, shared her personal experience of struggling with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic attacks during her youth. She highlighted the need for early detection and accurate diagnosis, as misdiagnoses or delayed diagnoses can exacerbate mental health issues and lead to unnecessary emergency department visits. Early detection allows for timely access to appropriate treatment and support, reducing the likelihood of crisis situations.
Dr. Mark Alter highlights the shortage of psychiatric beds for children needing inpatient care, adding strain to emergency departments. Additionally, Dr. Ameer Mody, Director of ED Clinical Informatics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, stresses the importance of exploring alternative options. He suggests that removing 12-year-olds from their familiar environment and placing them in an emergency department or inpatient facility may not yield better outcomes. Instead, he advocates for an intermediate solution, such as intensive outpatient therapy that provides tailored support while allowing the patient to remain in their familiar surroundings.
Dr. Mody emphasized the vital role of policymakers in recognizing and addressing the profound impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and social determinants of health. By incorporating crucial factors into policymaking, policymakers have the power to shape a healthcare system that is both supportive and effective, tackling the root causes of behavioral health challenges.
To watch the recording of this webinar, click here.
As of March 2023, 160 million Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages, with over 8,000 more professionals needed to ensure an adequate supply. In order to address this shortage, long-term legislative opportunities are necessary but will not provide immediate relief to the millions of Americans in need of care. Digital tools overcome many of the barriers to traditional mental health care; however, they present their own challenges concerning federal regulation and public and private insurance coverage. In order to start implementing near-term solutions, The Commonwealth Fund and the Meadows Institute have begun focusing on existing authorities that have not yet been applied to the behavioral health sphere.
The Commonwealth Fund is a private U.S. foundation dedicated to promoting a high-performing healthcare system that can provide society's most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, and people of color, with better access to care. In 2021, The Commonwealth Fund launched their focus on behavioral health and dedicated efforts towards helping policymakers on federal and state levels. The fund was able to track trends in mental health care demand and compared state to state and the US to other countries to isolate which populations are most underserved and why. They found that youth populations of color were most at risk for mental health professional shortages and began analyzing how they could target this population. One of the main factors that prevent patients from connecting with service providers, in addition to the workforce shortage, is that Medicaid is not accepted by many care providers, which only further isolates disadvantaged populations.
The Meadows Institute works to utilize public and private partnerships to advance innovative funding models for mental health care and services. As digital mental health technology is not FDA regulated, both clinicians and consumers struggle to determine which tools are safe and effective. Additionally, unregulated providers have no incentive to protect the privacy of their patients, and their data security is unmonitored. Once a consumer has identified a digital mental health tool (DMHT) they would like to use, there are a myriad of complications with insurance. As DMHTs are both a service and a device, which are usually disparate categories for insurance purposes, it is difficult to quickly and easily reimburse consumers. Additionally, DMHTs are constantly updated, but the research that reviews these technologies is much slower and struggles to effectively ensure that all information is accurate for insurance claims. These difficulties are particularly complicated for Medicaid at the state and federal levels. All of these barriers discourage providers from exploring options with tools and technologies that may never get approved; meanwhile, the population of Americans without mental health care only grows.
However, there are many opportunities for near-term solutions. The creation of clear definitions and standards can go a long way in ensuring that consumers have safe and effective care that does not put their privacy or data at risk. With regard to reimbursement, clinicians and staff should be paid for their time spent using an online resource and the time taken to educate patients on it. Providers can explore enhanced payment possibilities, such as increasing the rate for the same service, as DMHTs are part of supplies and should be factored into the calculation of cost. Underlying all of these solutions is the need to target vulnerable populations when crafting policies to ensure these solutions are aiding all people seeking care.
Medicaid programs can encourage the adoption of DMHTs and universal screenings, as well as focus on youth mental health, by making it a part of the request for proposal process with managed care organizations (MCOs). Looking towards exemplary states, such as Louisiana and Washington, to model evidence coverage determination processes can aid Medicaid providers in the process. Medicaid MCOs could also incorporate DMHTs into their own request for proposal processes by offering it under “value-added services.” There are many short-term proposals that can help mitigate the effects of the mental health professional shortage while longer-term legislative processes work towards fixing the core issues that resulted in this crisis.
Just because digital mental health tools are new and ever-changing does not mean we should not incorporate them into our notions of what constitutes behavioral health care. These tools can streamline the lives of many providers and patients as they overcome many of the traditional barriers to providing care and can address the need for 8,000 additional mental health professionals.
To download the full report, please visit Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute’s website here.
Hopelab is an innovative company that is taking strides to break the barriers of the stigma with mental health and help LGBTQ+ teens to connect with mental health services. Hopelab has created an app titled imi to help these teens with their mental health. We spoke with the team about their app and how it is changing the way of the future for these teens.
imi is a research-backed mental health tool that serves LGBTQ+ teens. The digital tool was co-created with Hopelab, It Gets Better, and Centerlink for teens to be able to explore and affirm their identity. While there are companies dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community with crisis situations, such as the Trevor Lifeline and the Trans Lifeline, who can help them in their moment of crisis, there is more that needs to be made available.
imi focuses on four topic-based guides: stress, queerness, stigma, and gender. These topics are based on research and what research says they need most, but also, what youths are saying that they need most. The highly interactive app includes science-backed activities, resources, and learning moments. These aids have all been backed by the science of what works for the youths.
There were many youths' voices that were involved in the project and those voices are represented within the tools themselves and represent many intersectional identities, which enables you to use imi to hear from others who are like them, to not feel alone, and understand other people's journeys as well. In addition, the imi project worked with a lot of queer artists, designers, and illustrators, many of which are young people themselves, to really develop the artwork and visual design as the web app. Youths were key in testing the visual designs, and they really ensured that the tool feels especially relevant to all in the community, including those teens of black, indigenous, and other teens of color.
We know that there are big disparities in mental health for LGBTQ+ teens, and that is the reasoning behind why this app was developed, to give them a greater sense of support, a better sense of ability to explore and affirm that identity, and then also to help manage some of the stressors that come up living in a world that doesn't always affirm and is sometimes outrights hostile. In particular, with the legislative climate we are seeing right now these young people need tools that really boost them up and let them know that they are not alone. That is the main goal of imi. Many of the concerns of other resources can feel sterile, with meditation, and then you are back in the real world, which can be stressful and overwhelming. There is a lot of care with imi, and there is a human aspect of it that shows just how caring and thoughtful the app is. There is a hope that the teens who use the app can sense the love, care, and effort put into building the app and making it what it is today.
Hopelab wants to make sure that they are making products that people love and adore, and that are accessible so that their partners can get the products out to the public. They also want to make sure that they can prove some level of efficacy or impact on the actual outcomes that the products provide.
They partnered with the University of Pennsylvania and their Program on Sexuality, Technology, and Action Research (PSTAR) team to have imi tested in a randomized controlled trial. The aim of the trial was to really understand if the intervention itself have an impact on some of the pieces they were trying to move. They ended up working with them to get a diverse sample of teens from all around the country, with 270 teens through social media ads to participate. A major goal of this study was to evaluate the response from teens who are experiencing multiple stressors and to see if they were finding success with the app. The trial paired the study participants with either imi or another group tool, Asterisk, and evaluated their progress at multiple points throughout their trial. The imi group continuously saw improvement in the participants coping skills and coping resources over those using Asterisk.
One interesting addition to the app is the use of a quick exit button within the app. This is on each screen and allows the user to quickly back out of the app if they are suddenly in an unsafe space or if someone approaches them and they do not want them to be seen using the app. This simple design feature just adds to the overall thoughtfulness and depth of the app, as well as the caring that went into it. There is also a timeout feature on the app, and after 10 minutes of inactivity, it will timeout and default to another site. This is another level of protection for the user so that there is less risk of the young person being unintentionally outed to family members, friends, or others.
Every aspect of this app is based on the safety, comfort, and accessibility of the user while creating a safe place for understanding themselves and their ability to progress. The feedback has shown that the teens using the app appreciate the thought that went into these features, as it shows how much people on either side care about the lives and well-being of these teens, who are not safe in some cases. These additions are some of the intentionalities that set imi apart from a catch-all like many other mental health resources are. imi recognized that mental health is not a problem that needs to be solved, but that it is a progressive level of queer mental health.
There is a lot of potential for an app like this. There is also hope that LGBTQ leaders will be able to use imi in a community setting in order to better connect with the teens. This also could be used as a tool with therapists to help the teens to better understand themselves and come back to therapy ready to discuss their concerns with their therapists. imi is free to anyone and everyone.
For more information on imi, click here.
Mental and emotional well-being are integral components of an individual's overall health. The ongoing pandemic has further intensified the need for accessible and affordable mental health support services. However, despite increased awareness and resources, individuals still face significant barriers when it comes to accessing quality mental health support services.
In 2020, Alter Health Group was awarded a federal grant that allowed them to provide over 35,000 encounters for free. As a multi-grant recipient, they have conducted extensive research and analysis to ensure the efficacy of the care they provide and the positive outcomes for their clients. Their scientific approach, utilizing sub-clinical staff and measuring outcomes through their Care Predictor and Strategic Alliance Inventory (SAI), ensures that their clients receive high-quality care. Under the leadership of Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Loren Martin, groundbreaking research has been conducted to develop the Care Predictor. Driven by the curiosity to quantify the level of care offered by our agency and measure empathy, Dr. Martin discovered a scientifically validated method to achieve this goal.
The Care Predictor evaluates the care provider's attributes and forecasts their ability to create and sustain a therapeutic alliance with the care seeker. This approach ensures that establishing and maintaining such an alliance remains a top priority. Alter Health Group's care providers have excelled in this regard, achieving an impressive average score of 4.5 out of 5. This puts them in the 87th percentile, demonstrating their exceptional ability to foster and maintain strong therapeutic relationships.
Recently, Alter Health Group was awarded a $5M grant to partner with CalHOPE, a statewide effort that provides behavioral health crisis counseling services to adolescents, college-aged individuals, and those who require long-term or chronic support after a treatment episode. Through this partnership between Alter Health Group and CalHOPE, Alter Health Group will provide 24/7 support with a staff of 70 peers who offer video, chat, and call-based support for mental wellness and emotional support. They will offer these services through their free emotional support line, the BeWellLine and their virtual platform, Mindfuli, which enables peer counselors to refer help seekers to higher levels of care as needed, connecting them to a personalized mental health provider in minutes.
The Mindfuli platform allows individuals to schedule appointments with care providers for ongoing support. It utilizes measurement-based care to assess through a diagnostic approach, which leads to better-informed care providers and better engagement. The data-informed approach ensures all stakeholders use the information to provide person-centric care. The virtual platform provides better access and equity to care, especially for individuals living in remote rural locations. Through video support, clients receive better connection and support.
Additionally, 24/7 chat support and call-based services are available in crisis situations. The virtual platform also offers access to virtual groups and a comprehensive, culturally-informed list of groups to provide group settings for individuals going through similar issues. And the best part? This service is provided for free!
Alter Health Group's approach is designed to meet individuals where they're at, offering early intervention and support to prevent escalation and avoid emergency room visits or psychiatric hospitalizations. Prevention is a key factor in their approach, and their free resources provide a diversion effectively. If individuals need to be referred to a higher level of care, they can refer clients to appropriate resources after triaging.
Californians can learn more about accessing these free mental health services by visiting their website at www.bewellline.com. Individuals who need support can also call the BeWellLine at 866-349-6854.
BeWellLine is looking for organizations that want to join the mission of supporting adolescents, college-aged individuals, and those who require long-term/chronic support after a treatment episode with these free resources. Organizations including schools, non-profits, behavioral health organizations, and treatment providers can partner with Alter Health Group to provide this free support. The services must be provided to Californians. To get in touch, please email email@example.com.
Brightline is the first and only national comprehensive digital behavioral health solution. They support kids aged a year and a half to eighteen, along with their families. They do that through a comprehensive model using self-directed tools, resources, and content within their digital platform. They use one-on-one virtual behavioral health coaches to focus on skill building. Brightline also has a diverse team of language pathologists, psychiatrists, and therapists. They currently reach all 50 states with their care network.
Blue Shield of California is a part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield family and is a mission-driven, not-for-profit statewide Blue plan that serves residents of California. They are focused on creating a healthcare system that is worthy of their family and friends and is also sustainably affordable. They have 4.7 million members, more than 7000 associates, and 23 billion dollars in revenue. Since 2004, they have invested more than 800 million dollars in the communities that they live in, work in, and serve.
Pediatric behavioral health matters to both Brightline and Blue Shield of California because kids are the future, and both know that in spite of lots of wonderful people, there is still a significant stigma around mental health and behavioral health. They want to be a part of providing access to kids and families that need it. As there is a shift from pandemic to pandemic, there are barriers that include finding access to providers that accept certain health plans, a general lack of providers, transportation issues, and more. The companies’ focus matters more now than ever. One in five children in the US has a diagnosed mental health condition, and another one in five is potentially undiagnosed.
Brightline and Blue Shield of California are partners and value their professional relationships. Both companies are deeply committed to supporting pediatric mental health. There have been countless community initiatives that were partnered with schools and agencies aimed at raising awareness. They know and understand proper behavioral health care for the pediatric population. They have seen the need become a bigger and bigger issue. There is a critical shortage of mental health providers facing kids. There are increasing numbers of kids being diagnosed with mental health conditions, and different populations are experiencing this at a higher rate. Kids of color, LBGTQ, kids experiencing poverty, and other adverse childhood experiences all have high statistics that should compel people to work on integrating behavioral health care and resources into pediatric primary care and work to increase providers in the field while getting better outcomes.
Brightline tackles this lack of support for pediatric behavioral health in a systematic, comprehensive way to support kids and teens. There is a focus on how to do this in a holistic way to measure improvement over time and really focus on quality and outcome.
Blue Shield of California was the first for employers to offer pediatric behavioral health to their employees. Brightline tied this bridge together with the proper care for families and gave timely access to care, access to coaches, and involving parents and the kids in the care.
Brightline is growing its client network, as well as its partnerships, at an increasing rate. Many of the employers they work with have employees with a strong work and family balance that they are juggling. An increasing number of employees have to leave their employers to care for the behavioral health needs of their children. This has brought Brightline into many employers' care systems. Brightline is happy to partner with companies that have their employee's best interests at heart and when their interests include caring for their families.
Pediatric solutions are not the same as adult solutions. There are so many pediatric-focused care aspects, and there needs to be the same focus for pediatric behavioral healthcare. It would be inefficient to care for a child with an adult care solution, so why should this standard differ for mental health? Another positive aspect of their platform is their idea of parent-involved care plans. Parents can be a major help when it comes to a care path and a care plan. Parent involvement allows parents to actually see that their child is getting better and how they can help them succeed.
There is a positive future for care as integration becomes more common. Treatment needs to integrate behavioral health care by caring for people as a total person, not as several separate entities within the same person. Integrating parents and caregivers into care is also a major positive in terms of future care. There has to be support for those who need it most. Virtual care is now at the forefront of care in the US, and we can thank the pandemic for this reinforcement that can be given anywhere. This allowance of virtual care has started to reorganize the healthcare system and how the healthcare system works. Virtual care is becoming more accessible and available, which has helped immensely in the mental health space. This virtual field has allowed families to make care work for them logistically while also, in some parts, removing the stigma that may have otherwise kept kids from pursuing the care that they need.
Digital behavioral health tech is the future for connecting those most in need of care with the care they need, when and how they need it. Brightline is a beacon of hope for pediatric behavioral health care. Partners like Blue Shield of California are making Brightline more accessible by allowing them to provide the best in accessible care in the best manner possible.
You can watch our full panel and hear more of these conversations here.
The youth of today have a wonderful opportunity at their hands. Thanks to technology, they have opportunities that were not available in the past, especially regarding mental health. Mental health treatment options are growing rapidly for the pediatric and adolescent communities.
Schools are a major player in the increase of opportunities resulting in better access, more conclusive treatment, and allowing the student to continue on the right path with their education.
There are mental health providers that work directly with schools to reach children and provide them with the care they need and an outlet to do so. Families can use platforms for these providers to get mental health care either while at school or after school hours.
There are also better opportunities now for children with access to and linking their insurance to their health care. By including the schools in their care system, more kids have care and are able to utilize insurance to cover their care.
Telehealth has increased the reach and the scope of services that children are able to receive. It has allowed children and their families to become connected to and bridged to their support services.
This connection of services with the school has also increased the preventative aspect of care and now is able to help children even before they develop serious issues.
Equity in mental health care is also increased thanks to this cooperation with schools. This is a huge step in the right direction for mental health treatment for children.
Many opportunities for mental health care are available to college students. College students face a unique set of challenges when first living away from home. Learning to navigate the world on your own is challenging. These challenges include finding access to medical care and mental health care on their own, on top of stressors and fears of college life.
College students now have access to many different kinds of mental health care in connection with colleges and apps that can be downloaded directly to their phones and tablets. This expansion of opportunities for access is really going to help make a huge difference in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health for this population.
There are many options available, like virtual peer support groups, telehealth, instant access to therapists and providers, prescription medication, and 24/7 emergency connection with a therapist.
Equity in mental health for college has also increased and is available to more students now than ever before. Using these digital platforms for care bridges the equity gap for students who would otherwise not be able to reach care based on location.
This aspect of digital care has helped to increase timely access to college students and has helped to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care. Leaving campus or walking into a therapist can be scary for a college student. These innovations are helping to improve college life and an easily accessible manner.
As we progress into an entirely virtual and digitally tech-driven society, some significant adjustments still need to be addressed. Crisis intervention is a critical interjection for a person who has an emergent mental health concern. While the reasoning behind these crises can vary, one thing remains constant.
As a nation, we are making great strides toward the future success of our citizens. Everything we could possibly want or need is available in some virtual or digital form, each having various levels and stages of interaction. Many things can be done now without having to set foot in an office setting or scheduling appointments months in advance. Waiting in lines has also seemed to become a thing of the past in many aspects of our lives with the capability of virtual ordering off of websites and with restaurants.
This change has also started to impact the way we provide our healthcare, with the new offerings of virtual healthcare appointments, prescriptions management, as well as some diagnostic testing and test result delivery. Mental health has had a significant leap toward the digital age with the increased offering of behavioral health care–right from our phones and computers. Numerous, and with a growing number, companies are starting to offer virtual platforms focused solely on behavioral health. There are so many different platforms that can help meet the needs we have for the care we want and deserve.
Recently, the Suicide Helpline has even changed its’ phone number in order to make it more accessible and easier to remember. This was a significant step forward as the new 988 crisis phone number is easier to remember and be directed to in an emergency. While this is a step in the right direction, some crisis still requires medical intervention. What if this is not possible for some people? Not everyone has the capability to get to a care center in an emergency. There is a growing need for a virtual crisis intervention to step in where the 988 number cannot. The need for a virtual crisis team would have doctors and crisis workers ready to step in when needed.
We continuously hear about how the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything and reverted so many years of progress. One major aspect of healthcare seemed to flourish: the behavioral health field. Through the power of digital technology, this field has received a much-needed boost, with advances in the field, diagnostic tools, treatment, and accessibility. It is now much more common to hear individuals and providers discussing behavioral health treatment.
Treatment accessibility continues to plague the healthcare field, especially when it comes to behavioral health and, subsequently, behavioral health crisis care. There is still a limited number of behavioral health providers that are available in person at local hospitals or in combination with health care facilities, which can make obtaining care in a crisis tricky. Rural areas continue to make the list of areas with inaccessible care, as well as care for those with mobility issues or other physical blockers. There need to be options for those who cannot seek the care they need when they are in the most need. Many patients have had issues with unnecessary emergency room visits that were not equipped to handle their care needs or waiting for beds for those who need immediate care when in a crisis. This is where the need for virtual crisis care can come into play. Many more people would be able to receive the care that they require if there were more options available for immediate behavioral or suicide crisis care.
With the growing need for virtual crisis care so prominent, many companies are stepping up. There are some companies that have recently announced their entrance into the virtual crisis field. These companies are already leaders in the virtual behavioral healthcare field and are taking a stand to help support their clients in the best ways that they can.
In December of 2022, Brightside announced Crisis Care, a national telehealth program for treating individuals with elevated suicide risk. Their focus is on helping to prevent avoidable and unnecessary ER visits, which can risk lives and increase healthcare costs. This option will be available nationwide once it rolls out.
Array Behavioral Care announced in January 2023, in collaboration with CVS Health, will allow them to expand their care to a more on-demand availability in order to help ease the burden of emergency rooms nationwide. On-demand care is a huge benefit for these types of mental health emergencies.
There are constantly new companies adding digital behavioral health and behavioral health tech innovations to the market. The influx of so many new ideas creates competition for these companies to be bigger and better than the ones before them. It also provides a platform for groundbreaking and innovative new technology to meet the growing needs of this once otherwise ignored field of medicine.
There is hope for the future of behavioral health care in the ever-changing and endlessly evolving digital technology. With many companies creating and adopting virtual care for behavioral health, it is only a matter of time before these companies begin to offer a wide range of virtual crisis care management.
The change in the 988 phone number was just the tip of the iceberg for immediate mental health crisis assistance. There is so much more that we can do and so much more to be done. We need more companies like Brightside and Array to step up and help to fill this crisis intervention care gap. With all the increased number of mental health providers, we have the opportunity to continue to make major positive impacts on those patients who need care the most. Are we up for the challenge?
For more on Brightside’s innovation, please click here.
For more on Array’s innovation, please click here.
Right now, hundreds of millions of people around the world are stuck in an ongoing struggle with their mental health. They’re overwhelmed in their daily lives and underserved in their options for care. Big Health’s pioneering work in clinically proven digital therapeutics is on course to tackle the challenge of delivering effective care at scale to help millions back to good mental health. We sat down and talked with Big Health’s CEO Arun Gupta about the growing mental health epidemic and why the timing is so right for digital solutions that are scientifically developed and clinically proven.
In the US and UK, more than 130 million adults suffer from insomnia, anxiety or both.1-6 And, the sad truth is that the current default approaches are just not working. Nearly 70% of anxiety and insomnia patients are treated with prescription drugs only.7 More than three quarters of so-called “rescue” prescriptions exceed the recommended duration of 30 days, despite concerns about abuse and physical dependence.7 Regrettably, less than 10% of those treated receive the widely recommended first-line treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).7 This may well be the most glaring case within our medical system where the widespread, ongoing practice is so divergent from what’s indicated by the data and clinical guidelines.
Mental health is emerging as the first large-scale use case for digital therapeutics because: irst it encompasses a number of highly prevalent conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and chronic pain that, taken together, impact one in three human beings; second, the preferred treatment option of therapy is generally unavailable, which leads to reliance on prescribed medications that show mixed results and carry significant side effect profiles; and third, through the pandemic it has risen to a top-three issue for employers, health systems, and governments to address more effectively. Adding to these factors and market dynamics are patient preferences, which indicate that 75% of individuals would prefer a non-drug treatment.8
Not to be confused with the growing range of wellness apps, digital therapeutics are real medical treatments that are defined by a number of distinct characteristics:
They’re evidence based — Based on proven models of care, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Big Health is leveraging its decade-long commitment to building clinical-grade digital treatments that are deeply science based and research validated. Underlying our products, Sleepio for insomnia and Daylight for generalized anxiety disorder, is an industry-leading body of peer-reviewed research and randomized controlled trials. Our guideline-recommended digital treatments have the most evidence in the industry, supported by more than 80 peer-reviewed publications and 14 randomized controlled trials. Our products are proven to drive significant clinical improvement with 71-76% of participants having been shown to achieve remission.9,10 Importantly, we do this while also enabling meaningful cost reduction of $6,400 annualized decrease in per patient spend.11
Based on our pioneering work in the category and the magnitude of the opportunity ahead, I was both humbled and energized last year when Peter, Colin, and Big Health’s leading investors, including Softbank, Octopus, Gilde, and Morningside Ventures, came together and asked me to lead the company’s scale-up as CEO.
I firmly believe that evidence-based, research-validated, fully automated digital treatments can have a huge impact in addressing the mental health crisis by providing a clear pathway to meaningfully scale and accelerate access to guideline-recommended care.
Looking across all the evidence, it's clear that the world is moving in our direction. Big Health has already been approved for reimbursement by numerous employers, large prescription benefit managers (PBMs), the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland, and multiple payers. We concluded 2022 as the most successful year since our founding, achieving significant business milestones including: Series C Funding round for $75 million with SoftBank; Daylight and Sleepio products added to a second national digital formulary; National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approval of Sleepio as first-line treatment for insomnia ahead of medication; development of a strategic partnership with a major payer for medication-based targeting; and enrolling our 300,000th patient in treatment.
The time is right and our momentum is strong as we drive forward in 2023. We continue to build out a diverse and talented team with a number of recently named senior executives focused on finance, product, people, sales, and marketing, joining many long-standing Big Health employees who are experts in digital treatment development. We’re already on pace to add more covered lives this year than any in recent years, including several new strategic relationships. And our industry as a whole is maturing to understand the role that evidence-based digital treatments will play as the first-line mental health treatment of any modern health system. We look forward to sharing further progress and inviting more collaboration on the road ahead.
We’d love to hear from you. Contact us to learn how you can unlock coverage to clinically validated digital treatments for your population.
Article written by Arun Gupta, CEO of Big Health.
Eating disorders are both more common and more serious than most people think. About 10% of the American population will be affected by one in their lifetime, and they have the second highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, killing someone every 52 minutes. The problem is worsening, fueled by the twin forces of the pandemic and social media: reported eating disorders are up 70% since Covid-19 first hit, and platforms like Instagram and TikTok have been shown to exacerbate both body image distress and eating disorders.
Making this all more concerning is the fact that people aren’t getting help: only about 20% of people struggling with an eating disorder seek treatment, and an even smaller fraction get evidence-based care that works. Plus, many people won’t even get a diagnosis because of stereotypes about who gets eating disorders (hint: it’s not just thin, affluent, white cis-girls). Eating disorders affect people equally across body size, socioeconomic status, race, and gender.
Now for some good news: with the right treatment, lasting recovery is possible for everyone with an eating disorder. The problem is access. Equip, a national virtual eating disorder treatment program, is working to combat that problem by making evidence-based eating disorder treatment accessible to everyone who needs it.
The most popular traditional eating disorder treatment uses a residential model, meaning patients live in a location away from home while in treatment. Unfortunately, while treatment in these facilities may feel good, they don’t work long term: relapse rates are high and many patients are discharged back into “real life” only to be readmitted. What’s more, these residential facilities require young people to leave home, school, extracurriculars, jobs, friends, and family—and the price tag is often steep.
Traditional treatment also includes lower levels of in-person care, like Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), in which a patient spends a certain number of hours each day at the program. We put together a guide to the different eating disorder treatment options (and all their associated acronyms!) that can be helpful for families navigating the landscape.
Unlike traditional treatment, Equip care is fully virtual so patients can stay at home and be supported by their loved ones. Our approach builds on Family-Based Treatment (FBT), the evidence-based care for young people with eating disorders, with a dedicated 5-person provider team including a medical provider, dietitian, and therapist, as well as peer and family mentors who have been there.
With FBT, healthy family members create a pro-recovery environment by helping manage all meals, monitor eating disorder behaviors, and practice recovery skills alongside their loved one. They do this with the support of their Equip team, who provide the resources and guidance to cope with the challenges of treatment while moving toward recovery.
Everything about our model is rooted in evidence. Research has shown FBT is the only well-established treatment for young people with eating disorders, and it has also found that mortality rates are lower for patients with anorexia who received outpatient care vs inpatient care. We know that to give someone the best shot at recovery, they need to recover at home, with the help of their loved ones, and we built our treatment around that belief system.
Equip is virtual by design, not by accident.
First, virtual treatment fits into a family’s life, rather than them upending their lives to fit around treatment. Traditional care often means long commutes to and from appointments, or even relocating to a different part of the country. It also means needing to press pause on many things in life, including work, activities, trips, or other kids’ needs. Virtual care removes these big barriers.
Virtual treatment also eliminates many of the financial and geographic obstacles that prevent people from accessing treatment: anyone in all 50 states plus D.C. can access our virtual treatment, and our treatment is a fraction of the cost of in-person care and covered by most major insurance plans. Additionally, residential treatment is too often inaccessible to people with disabilities; virtual care eliminates that barrier. Virtual treatment eliminates waitlists so families don’t face months-long waits when they need care urgently.
Virtual FBT means that as a patient recovers, they are doing so within the very network that will support their recovery long-term. Their family (and/or chosen family) are part of treatment, becoming educated about eating disorders, learning coping skills, and receiving their own ongoing support. When someone goes away to in-person treatment, their recovery exists in a vacuum, and when they return home, their support network isn’t equipped to prevent relapse.
Along with all these benefits, research shows that virtual care works. A 2021 pilot study found no differences between eating disorder treatment delivered in-person vs the same care delivered virtually, and our own breakthrough paper from 2022 found that not only does virtual FBT work, it works just as effectively as in-person treatment.
Only a fraction of eating disorder patients in the U.S. get treatment that works, due, in part, to a nationwide provider scarcity and cost-prohibitive care. We’re tackling the first problem by continuing to grow our team of qualified, trained providers. Given our virtual model, we’re able to have much larger provider networks as we’re scaling our team to meet patient demand and diversity.
To tackle cost head-on, we’ve partnered with 10+ major commercial insurance providers, including Cigna, Aetna, Anthem, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Medicaid in California. For the few who do need to pay out of pocket, the cost is more manageable than traditional care.
Lastly, many people with eating disorders go undiagnosed due to pervasive misconceptions around who gets eating disorders and what they look like. That’s why one of our primary goals is to change the cultural conversation around eating disorders, diet culture, and weight stigma. We actively participate in the discourse around bodies and eating disorders in the public and the eating disorder to field to make sure everyone can feel safe in their bodies.
Our kids are in crisis. It's so dire that the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a rare public health advisory about our national youth mental health crisis. A 2021 General Advisory report found that one in three high school students and half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness – an overall increase of 40% from 2009.
Pediatricians, parents and educators—the people who are closest to youth—are also sounding the alarm. Representing more than 77,000 physicians and 200 children’s hospitals, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an urgent warning declaring the mental health crisis among children so dire that it has become a national emergency. Parents and educators report that they are equally alarmed. 91% of parents are worried about their childrens’ mental health. And, both parents and educators ranked “Mental and Emotional Health” as the biggest challenge facing middle and high school-aged kids today2. The majority of educators ranked it #1—higher than school safety, cyber-bullying, physical health and wellbeing, social media addiction3. The Pew Research Center just published an article illustrating that four-in-ten U.S. parents with children younger than 18 are extremely or very worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point.
Clearly both experts and families are concerned. But, access to mental health services is very limited. There’s a shortage of mental health professionals and, even if a family can find a provider, the cost of care prevents many of them from getting the help they so desperately need. Our system has failed our kids. How can we help?
Mental health care is a tough business - not only emotionally but financially. A typical therapy session runs between 45-minutes to an hour. While there are large variances based on location and speciality, the reimbursement rate for a therapy session is often the same, if not lower, than a 20-minute office visit with an Advanced Practice Provider.
While it can be enticing to double down on higher reimbursement channels such as cash-pay only models or contracting directly with employers, this creates even more inequities in care. At Daybreak Health, we are committed to providing affordable and accessible care to all children which requires close partnership with insurance —commercial and Medicaid. This means negotiating our fee-for-service rates with commercial plans while also pursuing programmatic partnerships. It means being smart about contract prioritization of Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to maximize our impact based on population coverage. It means building out revenue cycle management tools while simultaneously fostering a pipeline of in-network insurance patients to justify the cost. And, it means staying firmly committed to our mission of creating equal access to youth mental health care.
School districts are also prioritizing mental health as a top investment area and using innovative funding sources to cost-effectively launch and sustain these programs. Billions of dollars of funding on a state and federal level have been allocated for youth mental health services, including ESSER and Medicaid. Oftentimes, district leaders are launching programs with temporary funds and then transitioning to general funds to ensure the long-term viability of the program. When asked which funds were being used, school districts responded that State grants and Medicaid top the list (51%) followed closely by Federal grants and general funds (50%)4.
Looking ahead, there are some interesting trends in where school districts are planning to invest most heavily in student mental health services:
With cost being one of the largest barriers to accessing youth mental health care, it is going to require systemic collaboration to help solve this massive issue facing our kids. Families, educators, pediatricians, insurers, government, and employers must act now and work together to put a youth mental health infrastructure in place to serve more kids in an equitable and affordable way. Together, we can solve the most defining problem of an entire generation.
Learn how Daybreak has partnered with 850 schools, representing over 30 districts, to reach ~650K students with school-based mental health services.
Article written by: Amanda Weaver, VP Clinical & Health Plan Operations, Daybreak Health
1 The State of Youth Mental Health & Our Schools Report, Daybreak Health, 2022
During the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Conference, we heard from startups, payers, providers, investors, and other visionaries in the behavioral health space. A conversation with Kristina Saffran, CEO and Co-Founder of Equip, and Dr. Martin Rosenzweig, Chief Medical Officer at Optum Behavioral Health, highlighted Equip’s work in eating disorder recovery and how they’ve partnered with Optum to reach patients across the United States.
Roughly 9% of Americans –about 30 million people– will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Additionally, 95% of people with eating disorders are between 12 - 25 years old. The five main types of eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, and other specified feeding or eating disorder. It’s estimated that 10,200 Americans die from eating disorders yearly, or one death every 52 minutes.
As the world has dealt with COVID-19, cases of eating disorders have increased significantly. There has been a 25% increase in hospitalizations for adolescents with eating disorders since March 2020. Additionally, the proportion of ER visits for eating disorders doubled among adolescents. The National Eating Disorder Association also reported a 58% increase in calls, texts, and chats from March 2020 to October 2021. Experts say that isolation, loss of routine, anxiety, boredom, and food insecurity are all possible explanations for the rise in eating disorders.
Kristina talks about her personal experience with Anorexia nervosa and seeing the complicated eating disorder care landscape as a patient. She explains that only “80% of 30 million Americans with eating disorders don’t get treatment and less than 1% have evidence-based treatment.” Kristina explains that an even more complex part of treating eating disorders is that “a core part of an eating disorder is not wanting to get better and not knowing how sick you are.” As such, families must be heavily involved in the healing process. Kristina elaborates, “eating disorder caregiver burden is arguably the highest of any condition because it takes so much work on the families part. We’re talking about families supervising every single meal, making sure their loved one is not over-exercising, [and] is not engaging in other compensatory behaviors.”
Dr. Rosenzweig also explains that for adolescents with eating disorders, “if they have a bad care experience out the gate, they’re less likely to engage and ask for help again.” Kristina continues that some “patients [are] blacklisted from treatment centers as ‘too sick to treat’…[But] patients don’t fail treatment, treatment fails patients.” Equip was built with the complex nuances of adolescent eating disorder care in mind.
Kristina and Dr. Rosenzweig agree that part of Equip’s success is tied to its work with payers to provide affordable coverage for patients and their families. Dr. Rosenzweig explains, “what we’re trying to do is really align around the Quadruple Aim, meaning that we want our members to get the right care at the right time, the right place, and obviously as cost-efficient as possible. And this is sort of a really the north star for us in terms of how we try and work with providers.” He continues that when he and Kristina first connected, he appreciated her “willingness to hear how to structure a program that would make this affordable to families.” They were able to work together to come up with a plan because Kristina wanted to do everything possible to make Equip affordable.
Dr. Rosenzweig says that they “came up with a bundled payment. So, what that means is we would pay one CPT code, so there’s only one copay or deductible, but it covers a period of time and an array of services. So the family is getting the care in a way that’s really affordable in terms of their out-of-pocket costs.”
Kristina and Dr. Rosenzweig gave abundant advice to startups looking to make a difference in the digital behavioral health space. Kristina emphasizes that it’s “important that you do have [clinical] employees in this telehealth model because we invest tremendously in training folks in evidence-based treatment for eating disorders, but also for all the comorbidities that are the rule rather than the exception.” She continues that they pride themselves on investing in their clinicals to ensure the best quality, which they can do because of their employees.
Dr. Rosenzweig explains the difficulty of scaling, saying, “healthcare is not united. It can be very regional…if you’re developing something. It may work well in Massachusetts, but it may not work in Louisiana… [You] have to think through, what are going to be the scalability challenges?” Companies must be cognizant of the hurdles they will face as they scale to new states, regions, and markets throughout the US.
Dr. Rosenzweig also explains, “Don’t be afraid to be disruptive. We’re looking for startups that challenge the status quo. That don’t assume that the way that care got delivered is the way that it should be done.” Payers often want to think through problems in new and innovative ways.
Most importantly, Kristina clearly states, “nothing matters if your outcomes aren’t fantastic and if you aren’t moving the needle for patients and families.”
There are many valuable and actionable insights from our conversation with Kristina and Dr. Rosenzweig. You can access the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech talks to hear our full conversation.
For college students, obtaining healthcare when and where they need it can be a never-ending challenge. One company, Caraway, is addressing the current tsunami of health care needs college students are experiencing. Caraway provides on-demand access to mental, physical and reproductive healthcare that is tailored to Gen Z women and individuals assigned female at birth. Below is a conversation between our CEO Solome Tibebu (ST) and Caraway's Chief Health Officer Dr. Cheryl Baggeroer, M.D. (CB).
CB: Navigating healthcare in the US is an onerous task for everyone, and particularly stressful for those doing so on their own for the first time. Most women+ face this daunting challenge in or soon after the college years when many common mental, physical and reproductive health concerns arise.
Access to developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive mental health care is essential to this group as women struggle with double the rate of depressive disorders, have nearly twice the likelihood of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and two-to-five times greater likelihood of eating disorders. Confidential, consistent and judgment-free birth control options as well as STI testing are equally essential for this patient population. They also need care for common physical concerns like migraines and UTIs, which affect women+ students more often than their male peers.
Gen Z women+, in particular, are facing additional challenges with their mental health and reproductive health. They are growing up in an age with higher stress and anxiety levels than prior generations with intense academic pressures, climate change, social unrest, gun violence and social media as their childhood backdrop. The social isolation, health anxiety and grief elicited by the COVID-19 pandemic added further stressors. With pauses in and closures of high schools and colleges, many are now playing emotional, social and intellectual catch up. According to a recently released report by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, mental health is now one of the top reasons many college students are considering dropping out of school.
Following the recent Dobbs v. Jackson decision, young women also find themselves worrying about accessing reproductive healthcare including birth control, emergency contraception and abortion services. Per a recent Best Colleges survey, 43% of college students are questioning whether they want to remain in the state where they attend school or transfer in response to lack of access to reproductive healthcare, yet another disruptive and often anxiety-provoking experience.
Still, despite the very clear healthcare needs of this patient population, there is a dearth of women+-focused solutions for mental, physical and reproductive health - and an even larger gap for solutions at the intersection of all three.
At this critical moment of developing their independence, Gen Z women often don’t know where to turn when they have a problem, have trouble getting appointments for routine health needs, spend days waiting for appointments at student health, or wait hours at urgent care facilities or ERs inconveniently located far from campus. Often students must decide between taking the time to take care of their health or keeping up with their classes and college activities.
At Caraway, our purpose is to redefine healthcare for a generation of women+ — to no longer allow the healthcare system to overlook or underestimate their needs, to care for them mentally and physically, to help uncover early diagnoses and reduce the risk of future health conditions, to support the development of their own health care agency, and to set the course for lifelong health care habits.
CB: Gen Z has grown up with phones in their pockets, and when it comes to receiving content and services, immediacy is the norm. On-demand everything - including healthcare - can lead to positive and negative consequences. Caraway is striving to address both with evidence-based care and information provided directly by medical professionals.
For example, for a Caraway patient anxious about a possible STI, our 24/7 chat feature allows them to immediately text with a clinician to discuss symptoms, have an at-home STI testing kit sent directly to them to collect the samples needed, send the kit back, and then when ready, discuss the results and ask any follow-up questions —all from the privacy of their dorm room.
Simultaneously, Caraway is challenging the steady stream of health misinformation a patient may encounter when seeking immediate answers on “Dr. Google,” Instagram, or TikTok. The gynecologists, adolescent medicine doctors, family practice clinicians, therapists and consulting psychiatrists who make up the Caraway Care Team use social media as well as in-app content to separate fact from fiction on health topics currently circulating online.
Thankfully, Gen Z women+ also appear to be more willing to talk about and seek help for their mental health, and more often view mental health and physical health as inextricably linked. Our 24/7 chat feature allows students to connect with an actual human clinician to get answers immediately and avoid the all-too-common health anxiety spiral. Our integrated care model offers multiple opportunities for both mental health and physical health needs to be addressed and connections between the two to be explored.
Much more so than prior generations, Gen Z expects to receive healthcare on their own terms – an experience that is personalized, equitable and digitally accessible. From the beginning, Caraway has had a robust presence of Gen Z leaders within our company. Caraway was built with and for Gen Z women+ and incorporates their feedback directly into our care model.
CB: Most student health centers mirror traditional health care settings with mental health and medical health in separate locations. Despite evidence showing better outcomes when care is integrated, changes to these systems are slow and complicated. Creating a fully integrated care model with mental, physical and reproductive healthcare available in one “place” was the first priority for Caraway. Every decision since then has been intended to emphasize interactions that allow mental health and physical health to be addressed simultaneously.
We use the Collaborative Care Model as one of our foundational care components, given its extensive evidence base for improving treatment outcomes for patients with depression and anxiety. Our Care Team includes medical and mental health clinicians from diverse backgrounds, varied care delivery experiences and broad clinical expertise. Both patients and clinicians benefit from our care team’s ability to immediately leverage one another’s expertise.
Caraway’s virtual health services meet students where they are and at the level they want to engage - from answering general health questions to addressing urgent medical needs to engaging with ongoing mental health care and interactive digital tools. We are proactive in our approach and aim to engage with patients before they get sick or need a higher level of care. When we are not able to address a patient’s needs in a virtual setting, our clinicians work alongside our health advisors to appropriately refer them to in-person settings.
Another core differentiator for Caraway is our focus on teaching healthcare as a life skill. Each clinical interaction is viewed as a teachable moment and informs future clinical app content. Our health advisors help students get the specific support they need, while also teaching them how to seek their own appropriate support in the future. Given how high the stakes may be in terms of future health and financial outcomes, developing an ability to navigate healthcare may be one of the most important life skills we can offer this patient population.
CB: We launched the company on July 26th, and we began rolling out the product and services in New York and California and are now in Ohio and North Carolina with plans to continue expanding nationally in 2023. The initial member response has been everything for which we hoped and planned:
Our clinicians have been equally pleased, which is a metric essential to the long-term success of Caraway. All have years of experience working in traditional healthcare systems with siloed medical and mental healthcare. Our doctors, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses love having immediate access to their mental health colleagues and vice versa. Our integrated care model allows them to offer more comprehensive support for our patients and, with the guidance of our health advisors, reduce the likelihood that a patient will fail to get needed care.
CB: Caraway’s healthcare services are available via its mobile app in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. We are happy to answer any question via our website! Our care team is instantly accessible for members. For more information, visit us at Caraway.health which includes FAQs and a section specifically for parents. And, you can follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and on Instagram and TikTok.
We have seen the status of youth mental health rapidly declining over the past few years, and luckily, a lot of people are talking about it – including the U.S. Surgeon General. A handful of companies in the behavioral health technology industry are focused on youth; however, there is one company in particular that is spearheading the mission to advance access to youth mental health solutions, especially for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth. Hopelab is a social innovation lab and impact investor at the intersection of tech and youth mental health. The Hopelab team answered a few questions from us on the trends in youth mental health, its role in advancing these types of technologies, and how co-creation is helping to meet the needs of youth.
There are a number of areas where we see great potential for impact in youth mental health, and particularly mental health for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth. We highlight four below.
Our guiding star is a future where all young people, in particular LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth, are thriving, free from barriers to their mental health and well-being. Building on our 20 year commitment to co-creating with young people, we’re creating impact through:
Leveraging all three of these pillars, our service offerings allow us to collaborate with startups, investors, nonprofits, universities, big tech companies, policymakers, and more to catalyze innovation that achieves impact at scale and results in more and better solutions for youth mental health.
We ensure these technologies meet the needs of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth by co-creating with the youth themselves. We believe we can accomplish Hopelab’s mission of advancing solutions that support, affirm, and empower young people by centering young people within our work. Through our Youthlab project, we provide paid opportunities that give teens and young adults a place to share their thoughts, designs, creativity, and experiences to support the co-creation of products that help young people thrive. Youthlab is part of Hopelab Studio’s service offerings and is available to our partners (including Hopelab Ventures portfolio companies) interested in connecting with youth networks, or young people directly, to shape product design and development, inform research collaborations, seek input on marketing initiatives, or engage in other learning opportunities. Youthlab reduces barriers for organizations to invite teens and young adults into the product development, feedback, and learning process by serving as a connector and curator between product designers, youth networks, and young people.
You can learn more about Hopelab at hopelab.org and see our latest projects by following @hopelab across social media.
Our youth are in trouble. As their mental health declines, adolescents are turning to resources like TikTok for help. However, licensed doctors analyzed 500 TikTok videos for a study related to ADHD, trauma, depression, bipolar disorder, and more; 83.7% were misleading, and almost half were inaccurate. Social media may be easily accessible for youth, but there are much better options for diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.
Specifically for youth, family-based treatment has been shown to be extremely effective in caring for youth by bringing in the entire family. One example being Bend Health. Bend Health increases access, improves quality, and reduces the cost of mental health care for families. We sat down with Co-Founder, President, and CMO Dr. Monika Roots to talk about the quality of their family-based, collaborative care and the accessibility to this care.
I’ve worked in virtual care for a long time, and no one has truly been able to take on kids and teens mental health in a really thoughtful and scalable way. Solutions tend to be focused on the child or parent, with no one really looking at the family constellation. So, we created Bend Health to support the entire family dynamic.
Kids and teens are highly affected by their surroundings, much of which is out of their control, so it’s essential to understand their environment and how it works. For example, say you teach a teen to pause and use deep breathing techniques in moments of frustration, but their parent shouts at the teen when they are frustrated, instead of using positive and calming communication. That teen is going to have a more difficult time implementing coping techniques because their environment continues to be an agitator.
The mental health of a child is much different than an adult. A child doesn’t have control over social determinant concerns, like food insecurity, within the home, but they will react to it. And it usually comes out in a myriad of presentations such as anxiety, introversion, or aggression. So, when we address the familial situation and dynamics, we can positively affect their behaviors and overall well-being.
Plus, having a child that is struggling with their mental health can have a huge impact on the other family members. Siblings need help understanding the situation, and how to talk about it, without taking it on themselves.
And parents often won’t reach out to others for emotional support because of the stigma, or because they think it’s their fault. We hear so often how isolating it can be. So, it’s important for us to make sure that they don’t feel alone, and to show them ways they can support themselves and their child.
We’ve designed our intake process to be efficient and comprehensive, allowing us to be there right when families need us the most. A wait time of 24 months for a child to be seen by a mental health professional is excruciating, so we’ve created a digital experience that reaches out to parents immediately to get them started, and to schedule an appointment.
Our thoughtful assessments allow us to quickly identify what may be going on, and to understand the severity of symptoms, along with a child or teen’s history. Additionally, we request a video that gives us an insight into what might be going on, in the family’s own words.
Then, we’re able to connect families with a care coordinator who can get them started with a customized care plan. Throughout this process, the administrative burden is taken off of the practitioner, so that they can come in at the right time and operate at the top of their license. We’re expanding their capacity because they have a team to support them along the way, and this allows our care model to be both impactful and scalable.
We believe that child psychiatry has complexities that adult psychiatry does not have, and that’s why we’ve enhanced the model. Our collaborative care model allows coaches, therapists, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians to be on the same page throughout the entire process.
Families need more than a curbside consult. And at Bend Health, families have quick access to a psychiatrist who actually sees children and teens on the frontend to make sure that the diagnosis and treatment plan is right.
For so many children and teens, the solution is a combination of coping skills, therapy, and parent involvement, instead of, or in combination with, medications. This model allows children and teens to have fast access to coaching and therapy to learn valuable skills, and offers medications only when necessary.
There is clearly a youth mental health crisis in our country, and our pediatricians are doing the best that they can, but they are overwhelmed. They typically aren’t equipped with the expertise needed to diagnose and treat the array of mental health conditions presenting today in their offices. And when they refer out to therapy, many of them can’t get appointments for their patients for months at a time. This results in many children and teens being prescribed medications because there are no other care options available. We aim to change that.
So, we’re always thinking about innovative ways that the mental health community can support primary care because right now they’re doing a superhuman effort. Through Bend Health, we’re able to partner with them and educate them. And then, together, we can really support the patient with all of the tools that they need to get better.
If you have been closely following the news and data, you know our nation’s emergency rooms need reinforcements.
Hospital emergency departments (EDs) across the country have reported a steady increase in patients presenting with behavioral health issues. Unfortunately, EDs are not designed or staffed to provide behavioral health patients with the care that they need. In fact, many EDs do not have access to an on-call psychiatrist for psychiatric emergencies. Research published by the Mayo Clinic in April 2022 found that of the more than 2,300 U.S. hospitals surveyed, 54% reported having no psychiatrist on staff or available for medical ED and inpatient consultation.
As a result, patients seeking behavioral health care in hospitals can languish for hours or days waiting for specialized care or bed placement. This leads to boarding, which is the practice of holding admitted patients in the ED when there are no inpatient beds available. Boarding is especially common among behavioral health patients due to the lack of psychiatric providers and inpatient services.
Boarding has become such a significant concern that nearly three dozen of the country’s leading provider groups recently urged the White House to address the issue. The nine-page letter depicted a bleak picture and declared the rise in boarding “its own public health emergency” for adults and children.
Compounding the problem, hospitals are facing unprecedented staffing shortages and clinician burnout in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital providers, staff and resources have been stretched to a breaking point as patients’ behavioral health needs continue to grow.
Easing ED gridlock with telepsychiatry and virtual collaborative care
The fact is that ED boarding is costly. A landmark 2012 Wake Forest University Health Sciences study found that psychiatric patients tend to wait 3.2 times longer in the ED than non-psychiatric patients, preventing 2.2-bed turnovers (or additional patients seen), which costs the ED $2,264 per patient when considering direct and opportunity losses. This, in turn, can lead to poor patient experiences, poor care, and poor outcomes for psychiatric and medical patients. Traditional care delivery models, operational workflows, and ways of thinking will not overcome these complex and multi-faceted challenges.
As an industry pioneer, employer of choice for behavioral health clinicians, and the nation’s leading virtual psychiatry and therapy practice, Array Behavioral Care is uniquely positioned to ease the boarding strain in our hospitals through telepsychiatry-based solutions. More than 20 years ago, our executive chief medical officer conducted one of the nation’s first involuntary commitments via telepsychiatry for a patient in need at a rural hospital. Since then, we’ve partnered with hundreds of hospitals and health systems, community healthcare organizations and payers of all sizes to expand access to care and improve outcomes for underserved individuals, facilities, and communities.
Array’s clinicians work with hospitals and health systems to implement innovative, physician-led programs grounded in evidence-based tools and protocols. It all starts with telepsychiatry which offers ready access to skilled, reliable, and experienced behavioral health clinicians ranging from adult and child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners (NPs) to licensed social workers and therapists. These behavioral health specialists provide guidance and support to onsite attending ED physicians with evaluation, disposition decisions and treatment for psychiatric patients.
Telepsychiatry can help reduce psychiatric boarding in the ED in 3 key ways:
With the virtual team approach, the treatment teams that are already commonly used in collaborative care programs in community-based settings across the country are paired with virtual licensed mental health specialists. This structure can be applied to acute psychiatric care in hospitals to increase access, quality and efficiency in behavioral health care, benefiting both ED providers and the patients they serve.
In practice, psychiatrists and psychiatric NPs function more as expert consultants, while therapists, social workers and other levels of behavioral health specialists can also be layered into the virtual behavioral health care team. Psychiatrists are available virtually to perform psychiatric assessments or mental status exams, serve as a consultant to the attending ED physicians or prescribe medication directly as appropriate depending on the needs and preferences of the hospital, and make risk determination, capacity to discharge and disposition recommendations. This expedites treatment and improves the quality of care for individuals with mental health concerns and frees up ED resources for more acute medical presentations.
Hospitals leveraging this model ensure the highest and best use of all clinicians’ time. Physicians and hospital staff onsite can rely on these virtual behavioral health care teams can help triage and assess individuals presenting with mental health concerns and make decisions regarding admission, discharge and referral for these patients.
The more behavioral health team members who are staffed virtually, the more significant the reduction in the operational, logistical and financial burdens that the onsite provision of those services would require. Virtual behavioral health care teams can also help support strained and overextended onsite staff in the ED and help curb clinician burnout, which costs the U.S. an estimated $4.6 billion annually.
Transformation across the continuum of care
Telepsychiatry is the lifeline our hospitals need to reduce ED gridlock. The boarding emergency is another troubling outcome of our country’s ongoing mental health crisis. Policy changes are still needed at the state and national levels to close access gaps, allow clinicians to be reimbursed for telehealth services at the same rates as in-person services and further enable widespread adoption of telehealth across the continuum of care.
At Array, we are intently aware that reliable patient access to behavioral health care extends far beyond our hospitals. Currently, behavioral health clinicians can only meet 28% of the behavioral health needs across the U.S. through in-person care. Virtual care has proven to be equal to or better than in-person visits during the pandemic. This care delivery model is integral to resolving the supply-demand imbalance our country is facing: the divide between patients who are seeking mental health help and licensed clinicians who are available to provide it.
Through our virtual behavioral care solutions in hospitals, outpatient health centers and at-home, Array is bridging divides in access and reducing mental health disparities across the continuum of care, one patient at a time.
Article written by: Geoffrey Boyce, CEO and Co-founder of Array Behavioral Care
BeMe Health is a mobile mental health platform designed to reduce the burden of the teen mental health crisis and improve teen well-being. The BeMe app provides access to science-based content and care activities, real-time coaching, plus clinical services and crisis support as needed.
For more than a decade, the state of teen mental health has been a public health crisis, vastly exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Four in ten American high schoolers reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 and 1 in 11 attempted suicide. Since 2019, the number of teens to visit the ER for mental health conditions has increased each year. These data are even more abysmal for youth traditionally underserved by the behavioral health care system, including youth of color, teens from low-income communities, and young people who identify as LGBTQ+.
Accessing mental health support, for those who decide to seek in-person help, is often a long journey; 70 percent of U.S. counties don’t have a single child psychiatrist and wait times for initial youth mental health assessments can average over three months in some states. This means most teens don’t receive mental health support from the current U.S. health care system.
The time is ripe for innovative interventions to support teen mental health. BeMe Health was founded to address these fundamental needs.
Teens today are struggling with mental health more than any other generation. Yet rather than seeking behavioral health treatment from traditional sources, they tend to be more comfortable seeking support from social media and digital tools. Their access to and satisfaction with traditional services is lower than any other generation, and they are more likely to use emergency care and crisis services. There is a need to provide more comprehensive digital tools that provide holistic support to the most diverse generation in history.
Authenticity is paramount for teens, who are seeking people, brands, and companies to be real and stand for what they say they stand for, including with diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our chief medical officer, Dr. Neha Chaudhary recently wrote a piece for Good Morning America that summarized the sentiments of many individuals on the Teen Advisory Board at BeMe. One thing she heard is teens don’t feel the same sense of stigma about mental health as their parents. They also want their parents to listen, acknowledge and validate their feelings, rather than immediately jumping into solutions.
When we started this company, we knew our solution had to be entirely teen-centric in its look, feel, and support it provides. We’ve been able to achieve user engagement 3 times other products through our holistically teen-centric approach. Everything about BeMe is designed with teens in mind so that they feel seen, heard, and included, and so that the content and service delivery is familiar and meets their needs.
In this digital world, teens expect immediacy and convenience, and their needs and feelings can’t always wait for their next appointment. They want support when and where they need it, through their phones. If we want to meet them where they are, technology has to be part of the equation. When no other access to behavioral health support is available late at night, teens can also access coping skills and support at their fingertips in real time, in a safe, comfortable place.
Evidence, too, is mounting that more scalable solutions to delivering mental health treatment can be helpful for young people. BeMe’s digital support tools are made up of science-backed skills shown to improve mood and buffer adolescents against challenges, such as loneliness and depression. BeMe’s coaching program is grounded in the evidence that live peer-to-peer support can enhance the effectiveness of digital interventions and effectively deliver skills from evidence-based treatments at scale. Our clinical care and crisis support tools are also there for teens who need extra support, when they need it.
Technology gives us the opportunity to take what’s working in clinical practice or in the research and package it into something fun, likable, scalable, less stigmatized and easier to access. Our vision is for most teens to use BeMe for a short period each day to keep mental health and wellbeing top of mind and develop healthy habits.
The teen mental health crisis affects more than just individual teens. It affects families, employers, and the whole health care system. Often, teen mental health struggles take up hours of parent time seeking mental health treatment for their teens, affecting workplace productivity, satisfaction, and absenteeism. In the absence of good care, many teens use emergency and high-intensity services that are extremely high cost.
BeMe partners with health plans, employers, and community organizations of all sizes to bring its innovative interventions to address the teen mental health crisis.
Through targeted interventions that reduce behavioral health costs overall, BeMe delivers value by engaging more teens who otherwise may not seek or access care. For teens using emergency services, BeMe helps reduce unnecessary emergency care visits and overnight stays by providing on-demand access to care and safety planning when needed most.
For teens identified as benefiting from clinical care, BeMe provides intervention while on waitlists, in between visits, and after teens exit treatment. For teens not in clinical care, we introduce new scaled pre-clinical interventions that identify, triage, and intervene most cost effectively.
For parents, caregivers, providers, and educators, BeMe gives peace of mind that their teens have the support they need when they need it. We also provide them with educational material on how to support and communicate with their teens.
By investing in teens today, together we can tackle the teen mental health crisis and give teens the support they deserve.
Social media is a hot topic of conversation, both at the user and observational levels. It has indeed changed our lives, forever. It has the power to bring us closer together with others across the world, but at the same time, it can bring us farther away from the people closest to us. There are many negative ideas that can be brought up in the discussion of social media. These ideas can lead to anxiety, depression, and the desire to be and look perfect at all costs, which can all be attributed to poor mental health. Younger generations are extremely vulnerable to this form of connection, and when filled with negativity, it can create a harmful environment. There is no doubt that mental health struggles are on the rise, but can we blame social media as the cause, or can it possibly be part of the solution?
Social media is this glitzy, glamorized, altered world that creates a drive for everything to look and feel perfect. Teens see influencers with perfect homes, relationships, and flawless makeup, hair, and bodies – all while seamlessly making money off of their perfection. This fad of performing on a worldwide platform of perfection can look tantalizing to younger generations. Fame, money, and beauty are all these kids see. This can also make anyone who doesn’t look and live like those on social media feel like they are not as good as others. It also creates an immeasurable amount of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Seeing this can highlight teens’ self-viewed flaws while making them embarrassed about how they live or look. The display of perfection also creates a false sense of the world around us, and teens can be swayed to believe that what they see on social media is real.
In order to succeed in the digital realm, teens need to understand that there are two parts to all social media. The two parts consist of what they see and what is real. Beneficially directing teens to realize that social media is not what it seems can help them properly navigate the delicate atmosphere. Teens should use social media with respect, honesty, and responsibility.
When many of us entered the world of social media, we had little to no training on how to be a proper digital citizen. It is crucial to explain the negatives and impacts that social media can have on our social life. Getting wrapped up in what was said, shared, or posted can lead them down a path of self-doubt and low self-esteem and create dangerous mindsets about how to look better on social media.
Trusting teens with a big responsibility, like social media privileges, can be risky. While they may not intend to do harm, many comments or posts can be taken out of context, flipped, and shared to create a totally different idea or point of view that can end up getting them into trouble. They need to know the damage even a simple comment can do. This goes hand in hand with discussing cyberbullying, which by now, most teens are tired of hearing about. However, it is such an important conversation to focus on because teens can get lost in the negative comments from social media. They need to know how to react to the scrutiny, as well as how to post and interact with others on these platforms appropriately. They can struggle to understand the difference between how they need to talk to others and how others talk to them. Teens already face a lot of criticism at school from their peers, and when their flaws are broadcasted on social media, this can hurt their mental health.
Obviously, not everyone is a fan of having their flaws pointed out by others. It often takes a strong-willed individual to admit their flaws to someone else, let alone broadcast them as content on a social media platform. This opens teens up to all sorts of scrutiny and inappropriate ridicule and even creates obsessive followers that can turn dangerous. Clearly, these reactions are negative and can have an adverse impact on a teen. Increasing negativity can severely impact one’s mental health. On the other hand, seeing people on social media who not only accept but try to better themselves has given a new light to sharing mental health struggles.
Individuals are now willing to share their mental health struggles and journeys, as well as the challenges they have faced. There are many people on social media whose profile platform exists just to share their journey with others. Recovering addicts, those coming out of manic depressive episodes, those healing from trauma, and those learning to live with newly diagnosed mental illness have all shared their experiences. Mental health professionals have even created profiles as a teaching platform to show viewers how to live with their symptoms or how to help those around them struggling with their mental health. It is vital to share with teens that mental health advice on social media is best coming from a clinically-trained professional.
This mass use of social media has also given a significantly positive platform to the LGBTQ+ community. It has helped many who struggle with their sexuality and gender concerns feel comfortable coming out and also seeking help for those whose mental health is impaired because of being forced to repress their true selves. There have been many positives that have come from this social media boom when it comes to LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ advocates.
This is exceedingly beneficial for teens struggling with identity crises. Seeing this platform filled with positive coming-out stories and being able to follow transitional journeys can be extremely powerful and liberating. This might, in turn, help them to understand that they can be who they are and there are people who will support them. Online support is just as prevalent as online scrutiny. When a teen feels supported, they are more likely to support others as well instead of tearing themselves down.
While there may be downsides and negatives to social media, it does seem to have the potential to have a major positive impact on society when used in the right way. The age of the “world wide web” opened the door to ease and access to information. Looking to the future, teens using social media can boost a society of acceptance, self-help, and personal growth, on journeys that we cannot simply conquer alone.
With college-age young adults facing a myriad of stressors, from student debt to social isolation, we’re seeing more severe mental health acuity and higher rates of help-seeking behaviors. As a result, higher education institutions are taking action by investing in more robust mental healthcare resources and searching for a new model of care for their students driven largely by the inability to recruit and retain on-campus mental health providers.
“More severe mental illnesses start to present themselves during this age group and research has shown that identifying these disorders early and treating them effectively has a huge impact on outcomes,” says Nora Feldpausch, MD, Medical Director at Mantra Health, the preeminent digital mental health clinic for young adults. “College-age young adults are just starting to become independent and think for themselves for the first time, but many have no prior experience with the mental health system. They don’t know where to begin or how to navigate their mental health needs.”
There’s a growing demand for more student mental health care, as more students face higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, and it's becoming increasingly clear that every campus has a different need. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a private institution known for its prestigious academic programs, partnered with Mantra Health, in part, to secure more providers of diverse backgrounds, training, and specializations. Alfred State College, in contrast, wanted to widen access to psychiatric care, which was difficult to find in the remote New York town – and found that Mantra Health’s telepsychiatry program offered the most comprehensive clinical care.
Mantra Health knows the importance of campus-tailored care and has recently partnered with institutions including Juniata College, University of Tennessee at Martin, and Siena College, and recently signed a multi-year contract with one of the largest state systems in the country. Since raising $22m in Series A funding in December 2021, Mantra Health has grown exponentially and now serves 105 campuses and approximately 800,000 students. Aiming to serve over 40 million young adults over the next decade, Mantra Health explores the reasons for investing in a company that specialize in young adult mental health care.
Not only is suicide a leading cause of death among young adults, but 75% of all lifetime mental health disorders develop by the age of 24, which means there are thousands of college students seeking treatment for suiciditality and symptoms of anxiety, depression, borderline personality, mood, persistent attention deficit/hyperactivity, and other mental health disorders for the very first time.
“To properly care for this generation, we must invest in mental health providers that understand the brain of young adults, the daily challenges they face, and the systems of care in which they live, work, and study,” says Andrew Hermalyn, an independent Board Member at Mantra Health, and the President of Partnerships at 2U, an online education company that partners with 230+ campuses to serve 45 million higher education learners globally.
Building a system of care within the college community that focuses on the specialization of young adult mental health care is vital. A recent study reveals the importance of this, as young adults experiencing serious mental health problems require a specific philosophy of care that supports them into the transition to adulthood in which independence is expected. This type of care may not always be provided by adult psychiatry, as young adults are dealing with emerging and pre-existing mental illness while at the same time undergoing significant life changes.
In addition to being transitional age youth, students also identify as LGBTQ+, parents, part-time workers, international students, first-generation students, athletes, among other identities. These specialized populations require specialized care and Mantra Health understands this firsthand and is working with industry-leading partners to support these students. Recently, for instance, Mantra Health conducted a nationwide survey of athletic leaders with the NAIA, finding that 92% of respondents want to make psychiatry services available to student-athletes, and published a white paper on best practices for athletic departments.
“The mental healthcare system today isn’t designed for young adults. Many college students are still covered under their parents insurance, living on their own for the first time, and putting their trust into an institution that has promised to support them during this transitional period of their life,” says Ed Gaussen, Co-Founder and CEO of Mantra Health.
Historically, many institutions turn to medical providers or community mental health providers to try to fill the gap. At a rapid pace, higher ed institutions are shifting their resources to digital mental health companies as a full campus well-being solution. One challenge is finding a diverse group of mental health professionals who have experience working with young adults within the college setting. The second is designing and building the workflow and data integrations to ensure the care team is knowledgeable about the campus environment where this patient lives, and can tailor care accordingly, and at scale.
“Not all care is created equal,” says Dr. Feldpausch. “If you’re going to invest in additional mental health resources, make sure you’re getting access to a team of mental health providers who can provide equitable and culturally-informed evidence-based care to all of your students, no matter their background, race or ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, religious belief, socioeconomic status, mental health condition, or circumstance.”
“Beyond patient-specific care, Mantra emphasizes campus-tailored care, where we have custom tools and product features that empower providers with campus-specific knowledge and protocols that will be most impactful to a patient’s care. This is how we can keep expanding our diverse pool of providers while maintaining a personalized care model for each of our institutional partners,” says Gaussen.
Good assessment and progress monitoring is foundational to evidence-based care. Mantra Health starts with a holistic assessment of student symptoms, as well as their clinical history and social situation. Students who receive Mantra Health care are assessed regularly for common mental health symptoms with an additional focus on psychological well-being, flourishing, and factors that may hinder a student’s ability to stay in school.
“Mantra Health screens for a broad range of social determinants that can derail a student’s academic career. This model gives us a much fuller picture of how each student is doing so that we can support them in moving beyond just surviving toward thriving in college and in life,” says Carla Chugani, PhD, LPC, the VP of Clinical Content and Affairs at Mantra Health, who specializes in DBT and recently joined from the University of Pittsburgh.
When it comes to the health and safety of students, clinical partners and student affairs leaders on campus need real-time communication and on-demand reporting to manage patient progress, and clear evidence of program ROI and population analytics to make the case for continued investment in campus mental health resources. At Mantra Health, we have a partner success, care navigation, and medical and therapy supervision team who use a variety of clinical measurements, screening tools, nationally standardized clinical protocols, and evidence-based practices to support counseling and psychiatric services, fill gaps in care, and meet the diverse needs of students.
Far too many college students are battling undiagnosed and untreated conditions, avoiding help-seeking behaviors, or refusing care because it doesn’t fit into their schedule or match their preferences or needs.
“There are only really a few specialized mental health companies that work exclusively with colleges and universities who genuinely understand the challenges faced by college students and know the value of embedding mental health services into the campus community that these students call ‘home,’” says Matt Kennedy, Co-Founder and COO of Mantra Health. “The average higher education buyer is much more discerning around population specialization and quality than when we entered the market in 2020.”
Young adults aren’t just students. They are also part-time workers, parents, athletes, and individuals battling homelessness, financial insecurity, the justice system, and other hardships. If higher ed institutions want to encourage help-seeking behaviors, build resilience, and protect their mental health, they need to be willing to invest in their overall well-being and provide them with quality care that’s tailored to their specific needs.
Colleges and universities have a unique opportunity – and arguably, an obligation – to build more comprehensive mental health offerings that safeguard the health and well-being of their students, all of whom are on their way to becoming the next generation of leaders and stewards of our world.
Mantra Health is a digital mental health clinic improving access to evidence-based mental healthcare for young adults. Learn more about the company and how they work with higher ed institutions here.
Thanks to our contributors Andrew Hermalyn, President of Partnerships at 2U and Mantra Health’s Co-Founder and CEO Ed Gaussen, Co-Founder and COO Matt Kennedy, Medical Director Nora Feldpausch, MD, and VP of Clinical Content and Affairs Carla Chugani, PhD, LPC.
Increasingly demanding, stressful, and overwhelming. These terms are usually used in conjunction with college students expressing their emotions and feeling associated with college life. In addition to Part I of student resources, here are six tech companies that can help navigate the college experience.
BetterMynd is a social impact startup that provides access to mental health services for America’s 20 million college students. They serve over 50 college campuses nationwide to supplement mental health and well-being. Through a network of providers and the power of teletherapy, BetterMynd is empowering college students to get the mental health care they need. Students can sign up for an account through their college’s unique BetterMynd portal.
The Zone provides a personalized wellness platform designed for athletes’ mental health. You can be proactive with a state-of-the-art mental wellness platform that integrates perfectly into your organization’s wellness program. Their access to support makes reaching out for help more accessible and streamlined than ever before. The Zone provides an accessible and scalable platform for anyone wishing to improve their well-being.
PursueCare welcomes those in need of support and will always meet them where they are in the process. They treat a broad population group ranging from people with opioid, alcohol, or other substance use disorders, pregnant women needing addiction treatment, and those who have relapsed. They also offer complete psychiatric treatment and counseling/therapy for people with mental health issues. PursueCare has partnered with ChristianaCare to provide virtual mental health solutions to participating college campuses. Participating students can access ChristianaCare’s internal and family medicine providers and PursueCare’s mental health, psychiatric, and medication-assisted treatment providers through a single digital portal.
META provides the mental health support students need when they need it to improve engagement and retention. Students can choose from a diverse provider network. Monthly reporting helps to predict student needs, track outcomes, and gauge impact. META is trusted at 170 college campuses.
MindSpark programs deliver extraordinary professional learning experiences for educators, the community, and industry partners who take their new skills back to the classroom and beyond. They cultivate whole-person growth and sustained organizational outcomes through the world’s most extensive, customized, and extraordinary professional learning experiences. MindSpark aims to help leaders confront fundamental challenges and foster transformational progress by embedding key practices and strategies within your school. They draw on the expertise of impassioned researchers and practitioners such as former educators and industry leaders to solve critical issues around educator retention, cultural evolution, and school re-design.
Using AI Communications, including two-way texting, AI chatbots, and live chat, every student gets the answers they need and deserve, so no student is left behind. Ocelot’s comprehensive, AI-powered SaaS platform enables colleges and universities to proactively and reactively reach students and guide them through all aspects of the student journey to increase access, enrollment, retention, and wellness.
Heading back to school can be difficult for everyone. No one is exempt from the first day of school jitters, whether this is your first day of school or your 14th first day. There are many problems that can arise with a new school year. How can parents know they have the best information necessary to keep their kids safe?
School brings on immense stressors for teens. Different factors play into this, many of which have gradually increased over the last decade. While this age of technology has had a positive impact on our daily lives, it also has had a significantly negative impact on our mental health when used in harmful ways.
In the past, school brought face-to-face stressors like homework, school sports, activity clubs, tests, and the hierarchy of popularity that usually exists amongst teens in school. While these can have little to do with how teens function outside of their school life, when there is no barrier between the sets of stressors, life can become challenging.
Social media is a powerful tool used in the ways teens interact and connect with others. It becomes difficult for them to realize that social media is not the real world. While there are real-world aspects to it, for example, breaking news, or communication with friends, family, coaches, and bosses, much of what is posted and seen on these platforms can be deceiving.
Body image issues, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and interpersonal connection issues can all be brought on by the negative connotations of social media. Cyberbullying seems to be the most significant playing factor in having to be connected to the digital world at all times. When teens cannot physically get away from their bullying peers, since they always have access to social media, bullying follows them everywhere they go. It's right there, on their phones and devices at all times. Those hurtful words are written for all to see.
With so much going on in the digital world, it can be challenging for parents to know when to step in. As parents, we are always trying to fix our children's problems. We want the best for them, and we try to show them we care. This can be challenging when we can't see everything on social media or what they view in other forms of content. It can be especially harmful when we do not know that different sayings and terms mean different things. For example, a term has been going around where teens are discussing a "back-to-school necklace." Now instinctively, as a parent, we may think that this means some physical necklace that teens purchase to wear. Did you know that this is actually referring to a noose? To some kids, the fears and stressors that this back-to-school time frame brings up creates this false sense that suicide is something to be joked about. For others, the fears and feelings of suicide may not be just a joke. Some teens may actually be contemplating suicide when discussing this term. Suicide can become a lingering thought for those who just don't want to deal with life's problems anymore. This kind of thinking is unsafe for anyone, but especially for such a young and impressionable age group.
It isn't easy to stay on top of every new term that is out there. The world of illegal drugs always seems to have some new term or saying, which just adds another layer of stress for parents to worry about. The important thing here is to remember that if we can better connect with our teens and build a trustful and meaningful relationship with them, there is a better chance that they will be willing to talk to you or at least listen when you are trying to give them advice. While this is no perfect recipe to keep our kids safe, positive communication and a positive connection with our kids can at least help them prepare for the world around them.
The world can be a scary place. It is much scarier when you cannot escape hurtful words, images, and threats. Talk to your teens. Be there for your kids. The best way to prevent the parent and teen divide is to be open to them. Bring up the new lingo if you hear about it. Facing the uncomfortable world can become a little easier when facing them together.
The top concern of college students is not academics, inflation or even mass shootings – it’s their own mental health.
In a recent nationwide survey of nearly 1,200 college students by TimelyMD, the leading health and well-being provider in higher education, nearly seven out of 10 students (69%) reported experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety or depression. The overwhelming majority (86%) said their current level of stress and/or anxiety is the same as or greater than this time last year.
Between nationwide provider shortages and long wait times for appointments that put both students and schools at risk, college and university leaders recognize they can no longer meet all of a student’s health and well-being needs on campus. In a recent survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education and P3·EDU, college administrators said telehealth/mental health services are the No. 1 thing they are interested in outsourcing. As campus leaders seek solutions that improve student well-being, engagement, and retention, they turn to TimelyMD more than anyone else to help their students be well and thrive.
The number one reason students leave college is for mental health reasons. According to a recent report from Gallup and The Lumina Foundation, three-fourths of students in bachelor's programs and two-thirds of adults seeking associate degrees who considered taking a break from college last fall cited emotional stress.
Founded in 2017, TimelyMD is the only virtual health and well-being provider focused exclusively on higher education that is trusted to serve more than a million students at more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide. Demand has surged ever since, and especially in the years since the pandemic.
“If mental health was a fire, COVID was the gasoline…however, COVID is no longer the primary accelerant,” Dr. Rufus Tony Spann, Executive Director of Mental Health at TimelyMD, recently told Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
In fact, nine out of 10 students say their campus is experiencing a full-blown mental health crisis. TimelyMD delivers high-quality care and peace of mind by increasing convenience, staff capacity, and provider diversity and eliminating barriers such as insurance, co-pays, and long wait times – and demand among students has never been greater. About 80% of TimelyCare visits have been for mental health support this year (vs. 10% pre-pandemic).
Ultimately, a team-based approach to care is most effective in helping students’ mental health. While the top three reasons students seek mental health support through TimelyCare are anxiety, general stress, and depression, TimelyMD providers also treat suicidal students every day in accordance with established campus protocols that outline effective care coordination, local resources, care follow-up requirements, and triage processes. Through shared care summaries, EMR integrations, and referrals, TimelyMD ensures each student gets the right care when and where they need it.
TimelyCare saves lives and improves student health by eliminating barriers and ensuring equitable, on-demand access to care – anytime, anywhere, free and fast. As a result, students have access to:
Inc. Magazine listed TimelyMD among the 10 fastest-growing health services companies in the country – recognition that validates the ongoing urgency of the company’s mission to improve college students’ physical and mental health through virtual care. Every decision the company makes is guided by its core values of passionate people, accountability, innovation, growth, quality of service, and positive impact.
“The key to our success is a laser-like focus on helping students be well and thrive. We are immensely grateful for the college and university leaders who trust us to care for their campuses and our team that makes exceptional care a reality,” said Luke Hejl, TimelyMD CEO and co-founder. “We don’t just want students to feel better, we want them to be well. TimelyCare allows colleges and universities to solve problems rather than just treat symptoms.”
The TimelyCare platform includes a range of services, including mental health counseling, on-demand emotional support, medical care, psychiatric care, health coaching, basic needs assistance, faculty and staff guidance, and digital self-care content.
This fall, TimelyMD is adding a new peer support community to the TimelyCare platform to empower students to safely connect with and encourage each other. According to a recent survey, peer support tops the list of ways students plan to cope with their stress and anxiety this semester, and TimelyMD designed this judgment-free space with safety and security in mind. As EdScoop recently reported: “Students can’t contact each other directly, and their identities are anonymized so that only their initials are displayed on profiles. Identifying information in posts is also be flagged and removed by TimelyMD’s AI or content moderators.”
Considering the nation’s economic future and global competitiveness are directly linked to the health and well-being of college students today, a partnership with TimelyMD has proven to be an investment in healthier students.
“Whether we’re treating one student or one million students, the need for 24/7 access to high-quality care has never been more important or a higher priority,” said Dr. Bob Booth, Chief Care Officer at TimelyMD. “Through the combination of equitable access to care, best-in-class clinical providers, and preventative self-care strategies, TimelyMD is changing the culture of sick-care into a model of virtual health care that has a lasting impact, one student at a time.”
Going off to college can be a daunting task. It can bring up many emotions and different kinds of stress and change how to handle your daily life. These new stressors can take an immense toll on your mental health. Luckily, with the combination of digital tech and some impressive state-of-the-art ideas, mental health care is now at the fingertips of college students, anywhere and anytime they need it.
Mantra Health is a leading mental health provider for university students. The clinically-guided mental health solution works directly with colleges and universities to adapt their program to each school's specific situation.
Togetherall is a safe, online community where you can share your feelings anonymously and get support to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Registered mental health practitioners safely monitor the online community. Togetherall is free to students at participating universities and colleges across the United States.
TimelyMD is the leading virtual health and well-being solution for higher education. Its mission is to improve the well-being of college students by making virtual medical and mental health care accessible anytime, anywhere. TimelyMD’s virtual care platform, TimelyCare, includes a range of services, including mental health counseling, on-demand emotional support, medical care, psychiatric care, health coaching, basic needs assistance, faculty and staff guidance, digital self-care content and peer support.
Talkspace provides safe, quick, and easy access to mental health care. The app offers a platform for accessing therapy, medication, assessment, healthy living support, and self-help tools. With immediate and responsive support, Talkspace has providers and care options that can fit any schedule.
YOU at College
YOU at College strives to comprehensively support the success of students, faculty, and staff in higher education with tools focused on personalizing wellbeing, promoting self-care and resilience, and connecting students to their campuses. The YOU platform provides upstream care to every student from enrollment to graduation.
Caraway is a digital health company committed to taking on the societal and medical imperative of caring for college women+. They prioritize the needs and concerns of college women+ during a challenging time in their lives. Their virtual care is available 24/7, so women+ can get the care they need.
When we think about mental health, we often think about having to travel to a doctor’s office in order to receive care. This may not be the best option for everyone. We know that there is a group of people who function well in the digital age: youth. How can we use this to a mental health advantage to better reach this group? Here is what eight mental health experts say regarding tech and youth.
Haleigh Tebben is the Chief Commercial Officer of Brightline, which is the first and only national comprehensive pediatric health solution. They support kids and teens, a year and a half old to 18 years old, as well as their families. They use a digital platform that utilizes a comprehensive model that includes self-directed tools, resources, and content, as well as one-on-one virtual behavioral health coaching that focuses on skill building. Their focus is on quality and outcomes, which can be gauged over time, through the use of their digital technology.
Dr. Katherine Grill is the Co-Founder and CEO of Neolth, a self-guided mobile app and browser for digital mental health care. She said early intervention is the best way to engage youth in their mental health. The digital approach is a positive way to do this. This company allows youths to access mental health education and coping skills and work on stigma reduction.
Dani Bicknell is the Senior Program Manager of Headstream, which is powered by SecondMuse. She says that digital wellness has the chance to serve youths better. Headstream is using digital access to get resources and mental wellness to youths.
Elise Vierra is the Director of Content for Limbix. They utilize digital content to provide immediate, safe, and effective private treatment programs. The content gives teens resources and teaches them to learn, plan, and schedule things to help them feel better. Limbix uses cognitive behavioral therapy to reach youths through the digital world.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
We spoke with Brandon J. Johnson, a Public Health Advisor for the SAMHSA and the creator of The Black Mental Wellness Lounge, regarding tech and youth. He said, “There is a huge place for tech in mental health care. Tech is a great way to interface with youth so they can be in touch with safe outlets. Not everything on social media is real, but there is a way to connect with youths through social media. There needs to be a balance between touch and tech to embrace technology for young people to get their information.”
Dr. Nicoletta Tessler, BeMe Health
Dr. Tessler is the Co-Founder and CEO of BeMe Health. She, Dr. Chaudhary, and Dr. Ramo are providers for the digital health application BeMe Health. She explains that there was a need in the mental health field for a way to better reach teens in order to get them the support they need. “What was being done before, was not working. We needed a way to access teens 24/7, from their phones.” The BeMe application was created to fill this need.
Dr. Neha Chaudhary, BeMe Health
Dr. Chaudhary is the Chief Medical Officer for BeMe Health. When asked about how she is helping teens with mental health care, she said, “ We are seeing teens who are searching for mental health support. They are not finding it at home, and they are turning to social media, which, as we know, is not the best source. We need an alternative to give to them where they can receive the right kind of support.”
Dr. Danielle Ramo, BeMe Health
Dr. Ramo is the Chief Clinical Officer for BeMe Health. When asked about teens and mental health, she said, “Teens are struggling with serious and diagnosable things like anxiety and depression. But they are also dealing with undiagnosable things like persistent loneliness and overstress. Creating a platform where teens can get the care they need, when it fits their needs, has allowed teens to receive care through digital apps.” Digital mental health platforms seem to be the way to reach teens in need.
You can watch our full panel and hear more of these conversations here.
During the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Conference, we heard from startups, payers, providers, investors, and other visionaries in the behavioral health space. One conversation with Britain Taylor, a Ph.D. Intelligence and Systems Engineering Candidate at the Indiana University Bloomington shed some light on artificial intelligence’s (AI) role in mental healthcare. She is the creator of ShuffleMe, an AI predictive software that detects current mood and helps social media users understand what content impacts their mood in real-time.
Studies have found that social media is responsible for aggravating mental health problems. Social media can create pressure to create stereotypes that others want to see. Social theories have found that social media use affects mental health by influencing how people view, maintain, and interact with their social networks.
According to research, since 2010, iGen adolescents have spent more time on new social media screen activities and less time on non-screen activities. This may account for the increase in depression and suicide. A Pew Research Center study found that of nearly 750 13- to 17-year-olds found that 45% are online almost constantly, and 97% use a social media platform, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. A cohort study found that greater social media use correlated to online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem, and poor body image; in turn, these related to higher depressive symptom scores.
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions to perform tasks. Now more than ever, innovative technologies such as AI are being used in the healthcare industry to address mental health challenges. There has been an increase in funding in digital health, and with AI-powered mental health, record levels of venture capital money are flowing into the sector.
The three AI technologies transforming mental healthcare are,
Artificial Intelligence is a growing industry, and researchers constantly discover new and exciting ways to utilize AI technologies to improve health. Research has shown that AI can even be used to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The study found that within the first two weeks, users of an AI therapy app, Youper, experienced anxiety and depression decreases by 24 percent and 19 percent, respectively. These levels remained low after using the app for four weeks. The approach to combining AI and telehealth capabilities encourages patient engagement, improving mental health.
ShuffleMe is an AI software that utilizes computer vision through a facial mood tracking camera that takes snapshots at key moments of mood indication. Britain explains how the ShuffleMe experience works. She says that a user would first download the ShuffleMe software, then give the software permission to access the camera on their device. “Then the software does all of the work in the background,” she says. The software functions by tracking facial expressions and eye pupil detection to track the placement of what a user is observing on their screen. Britain describes how “after you browse on Instagram, Facebook, or Tiktok, for example, you would go to the dashboard, and you could toggle mood incline or mood decline to see which social media content impacted your mood. So the software takes a screenshot of what that social media content was when you emoted a negative facial expression.”
The ShuffleMe software has also expanded to give users access to therapists or psychologists via an online chat. The data from the software can be sent to mental health professionals with certification and knowledge about tech addiction and digital health. ShuffleMe’s user experience is unique because users are given as much information and resources about their passive and active behaviors on social media. “[ShuffleMe] provides access to actually receive help on the platform,” Britain says.
Britain explains how the ShuffleMe software has changed how users interact with their social media. She says, “We’ve seen our users unfollow certain users… or even deleted one of their social media platforms because their data was showing that the time they were spending on social media and the content was impacting their daily life.” Britain explains her thoughts on optimizing mental wellness through technology: “I think it depends on the individual. Some tech really helps people feel connected, find relatability and increase their sense of community. Depending on the person, the tech doesn’t support the individual or their mental health.”
The ShuffleMe software is free to users and can be downloaded at ShuffleMe.app. “We are focused on getting our software in as many hands as possible because we are focused on saving lives and making an impact,” Britain says. The ShuffleMe software is currently partnering with the American Heart Association and connecting with university students to use the ShuffleMe software. You can follow ShuffleMe on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter at @ShuffleMeApp. You can access the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech talks to hear our entire conversation with Britain Taylor.
The youth mental health crisis disproportionately affects Black adolescents. We spoke with Brandon Johnson, MHS, MCHES, a Public Health Advisor for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about Black youth suicide prevention. We also reflect on a conversation from our 2020 conference with Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble (Dr. Alfiee), Founder of the AAKOMA Project, about how behavioral health technology can help address mental health concerns in the Black community. Both conversations highlight the unique challenges and recommendations for Black youth mental health and what tools are available to help.
As of 2018, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that death by suicide was the second leading cause of death in Black children (10-14) and the third leading cause of death for Black adolescents (15-19). In fact, the death rate by suicide for Black youth is increasing faster than any other racial/ethnic group. Brandon explains, "we've seen the suicide rate of young African Americans, for ages 5 to 12, double in the last thirteen years, and we've seen this rate decrease with their white counterparts."
The suicide rate is further exacerbated by unique stressors that Black youth face, such as discrimination and violence, which leads to a higher risk for mental health problems. Additionally, Black adolescents are less likely to receive care for depression due to many barriers to treatment, such as structural inequalities, stigma, and mistrust of healthcare providers.
One factor that may be contributing to the increased suicide rate is that Black youth are experiencing an access problem to mental health resources. As Brandon explains, they "may not have the ability to go and find a mental health support or mental health professional to be able to engage with them. [Another issue] is also how is the system built for our young people to be able to find the support that they need?"
Unfortunately, our mental health system is challenging to navigate, and on top of that, there is a tremendous lack of mental health providers of color. Only 4-5% of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists are people of color, and less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are Black or African American. The lack of representation can lead to Black youth not seeking treatment due to fears of cultural competence. The lack of providers of color is a problem that will take many years to address. In the meantime, it requires non-Black providers to be genuinely curious about the experiences of the youth that present for treatment.
There must be a multi-pronged approach to begin to address the rise in suicide attempts in Black youth. Five factors can help protect against suicide:
Brandon Johnson emphasizes the importance of including the family unit in any interventions, explaining that "young people don't have the ability to do everything on their own, the family unit has to be part of the support that we give to our young people."
When building digital solutions to help Black youth, it's crucial to meet them where they are and include them at the very beginning of the design process. As Brandon Johnson explains, "if you want to engage the Black community in the services that you provide…make sure that they are there to influence policy, direction, experience, protocols, all of these things should have that community engaged in a meaningful way."
Dr. Alfiee emphasizes that "there have to be unique ways in which we understand and then begin to try to address the unique mental health needs of Black people and people of color. And I think that behavioral health technology, when built with all these things in mind, can really be something that can move us along that path in the right kinds of ways."
Both Brandon Johnson and Dr. Alfiee mention the notOK app as an example of a digital health solution getting it right. The app was built by two Black adolescents, and it has a digital panic button to connect adolescents to their trusted contacts when they are in need. Dr. Alfiee explains, "because it has been developed by people of diverse backgrounds, it already has [cultural competency] built into it. It's not an afterthought. It's not an add-on. We don't have to do an adaptation to get to the cultural piece. It's baked in."
1. Include the Black Community and People of Color from the Beginning
If you are building a mental health solution, you need BIPOC involvement from the beginning, not as an afterthought.
2. Mental Health Providers Need to Focus on Cultural Competency
It will take many years to increase the number of mental health clinicians of color. In the meantime, all mental health clinicians need to become genuinely curious about the lived experience of youth of color.
3. We Need to Talk about Suicide
As Brandon Johnson explains, "I know the topic of suicide and suicide prevention can be intimidating, and it can feel scary. But our young people are talking about it. They're having the conversations already, and so if we think that we're doing them a favor by not talking about it, we're not. We're just leaving them to figure some of these things out on their own. We want to be a safe place to land for our young people."
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988 and is available 24/7 for support, and the Crisis Text Line is available by texting "HOME" to 741741. Please see here for warning signs and how to support your loved ones.
There is so much more to discuss on this topic, and you can hear these conversations and more in our video library.
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A few weeks after the Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Conference, we are highlighting a few conversations held during the conference. We spoke with members of the Hopelab team about their new product, imi, including Fred Dillon, the Head of Advisory Services at Hopelab, Deborah Levine, the Director of LGBT YouthLink at Centerlink, and Primo Goldberg, a youth consultant at Hopelab. We discuss how imi was created, specific concerns that LGBTQ+ youth face, and how digital health can provide an important service.
LGBTQ+ youth face unique mental health challenges. LGBTQ+ youth report higher levels of suicidal ideation than their heterosexual peers. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Additionally, the 2022 survey found that nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide, and LGBTQ+ youth of color reported higher rates than their white peers.
In fact, since the beginning of COVID-19, more than 50% of LGBTQ+ youth report higher levels of anxiety and depression. Additionally, 72% of LGBTQ+ youth reported anxiety symptoms in a two-week period, including more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth, and 62% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of major depressive disorder, including more than 2 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth. As a result, 48% of LGBTQ+ youth wanted counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past year. On the other hand, LGBTQ+ youth may also face harassment or a lack of cultural competency from providers, which may lead to an avoidance of mental health services for fear of potential discrimination.
Despite what these numbers suggest, LGBTQ+ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.
LGBTQ+ youth face unique challenges that lead to higher levels of mental health concerns such as bias, discrimination, family rejection, and other stressors due to their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. About 75% of LGBTQ+ youth report facing discrimination, and a 2019 survey found that 86% of LGBTQ+ youth reported being harassed or assaulted at school. In fact, one study reported that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were 140% more likely to miss a day of school compared to their heterosexual peers due to safety concerns.
More than 80% of LGBTQ youth said COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful, and it is estimated that LGBTQ+ youth have a 120% higher chance of experiencing homelessness due to family rejection. Additionally, 94% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. Youth with intersectional identities, such as BIPOC LGBTQ+ youth, face added discrimination, hurdles, and lack of access to mental health care. Family conflicts, heightened stress, lack of community support, bullying, and lack of an affirming environment are all risk factors for poor mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth.
imi was created by Hopelab, Centerlink, and the It Gets Better Project and is an online platform designed to support LGBTQ+ youth mental health. The platform offers four topic-based guides focusing on stress, queerness, stigma, and gender, and these guides are built to be a tool for LGBTQ+ youth to self explore. Each guide has content and activities built to enhance coping skills and mental well-being, alongside LGBTQ+ resources and tips for safer browsing imi also has a quick exit button and will automatically time out after 10 minutes of inactivity. This is thoughtfully designed to minimize the risk of users being unintentionally outed. New data, detailed in a preprint manuscript (not yet peer-reviewed), indicates that imi effectively supports the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth.
Knowing all of the barriers and stressors that LGBTQ+ youth face, Fred explains, “what we know is that there are big disparities in mental health for LGBTQ+ teens. So the whole reason we developed this was to give them a greater sense of support, a better sense of an ability to explore and affirm that identity, and then also to manage some of the stressors that just come up of living in a world that doesn’t always affirm and is sometimes outright hostile.” imi was built in conjunction with LGBTQ+ youth to ensure that it is meeting their needs.
imi is also free to access, and Deborah explains, “this really meets young people at the very starting point for them. Anyone can access it as long as they have technology. And my hope is that they will have the sense that there’s a community out there supporting them, that cares about them.”
imi also addresses the intersectional nature of identity and how those identities can influence a person’s lived experience. Primo explains, “It’s amazing to know that there are people recognizing the specific intersections of being a person of color, being queer, and being genderqueer because there’s not a lot of mainstream recognition of intersectional identity and the oppressions that intersectional identities experience.”
imi can also be useful as a guide that therapists use with their patients as well. Fred explains, imi “can provide some tools that folks could use between sessions and bring back to talk with their therapist about.”
These are just a few of the many insights from our conversation with Fred, Deborah, and Primo. To hear the full conversation and learn more about imi, go to our video library.
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We hosted a panel discussion about neurodiversity moderated by Tom Cassels, the President and General Manager of Rock Health’s Advisory business. One of the incredible leaders Tom spoke with is Marissa Pittard, Co-Founder and CEO of Beaming Health, a company focused on helping autism families find resources, get advice from families and experts, and learn about their child’s diagnosis. The conversation also featured Rebecca Egger, Co-Founder and CEO of Little Otter, a company that provides virtual mental healthcare for children 0-14 and addresses concerns such as anxiety, aggression, tantrums, attention difficulties, sleep, sadness, and relationship conflicts.
Neurodiversity refers to the concept that brains have developmental differences that result in normal differentiation that lead to different strengths and differences. In other words, there is no “right” way of thinking, learning, or behaving. The term came about in the 90s to promote acceptance for people with autism spectrum disorder. But, the term now refers to a range of conditions, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, Tourette’s, Down syndrome, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and others. Some people may not have a formal diagnosis but self-identify as neurodiverse and may have difficulty navigating social relationships, group environments, or sensory processing.
An essential part of working with neurodiverse children is helping them work toward their own goals, rather than having a standardized set of benchmarks. For digital health companies working with this population, it’s important to work toward long-term relationships with therapists to help keep kids engaged.
Marissa mentioned, “a parent told us recently, getting a diagnosis right now it’s like being pushed off a cliff and told to find your own parachute.” These companies are trying to create a supportive community for these families to land. Rebecca explains that “the end game for us is let’s support people as early as possible. And so we can have the biggest impact on their lives.”
In supporting these families, Rebecca and Marissa have both built their companies to focus on helping families in unique ways. Marissa explains how Beaming Health is “really focused specifically on autism families at the earliest part of this journey…how can we stand up a care model where families get access to the right care and resources as soon as possible?” Beaming Health emphasizes early intervention for autism families.
Rebecca explains that Little Otter “released a mental health toolkit. [Which] are free resources that provide really personalized feedback for parents…[and] our mental checkup that gives an entire 360 view of the entire family.” Little Otter emphasizes engaging the entire family unit in care to better understand total family mental health.
In our conversation, we discussed the importance of quality and choice in behavioral health care. Marissa remarks, “every parent or caregiver is the expert on their own family. Who are we to tell you what might be best for your family, because you as parents know it so much better than us. Our job really is empowering parents and families with the information and resources they need.” She says that the team at Beaming Health they have found that “families have different preferences and communication styles, [and] the relationship between the family and the therapist, may not be quite right.” They have found that giving their families a choice has empowered them to find the best fit for their family needs.
Rebecca agrees that families know their kids best, and they should be able to make decisions that are best for them, but she also emphasizes that quality has to go along with finding a match for each family. She says, “We’ve seen many families who’ve tried up to 10 interventions before coming to us. And so, even though that’s great that there’s access out there, something we talk about is we’re improving access to actual quality care. And we need to add that quality bit because access for access sake does more harm than good in young children.”
Tom echoes a common refrain among neurodivergent families: “If I can get an appointment, I don’t want it.”
Of course, these companies do not work alone in trying to help these families. Tom asked each panelist who their most important partners are in this work. Rebecca mentioned that “70% of all the mental health meds for young children are prescribed by pediatricians,” so they can be a significant partner in first recognizing that help is needed.
She also mentions that “teachers who are interacting with the children every single day, they have the most impact on the child’s life… They’re often the first to realize something’s going on.”
Marissa talks about the role that payers play, saying, “there’s just so much power in how the reimbursement flow impacts coverage, the appropriate amount of coverage and thinking about new types of resources and services that are covered, to me is one of the most powerful forces for solving a lot of the problems we’re seeing with our families.” Rebecca echoes the power that payers have and emphasizes, “the most impactful for us would be if insurance companies can really wrap their minds around this whole family care model.” These startups cannot do this work alone and rely on other stakeholders and partners to create a community of care for neurodivergent families.
These are just a few insights from our conversation with Tom, Marissa, and Rebecca. To hear the entire conversation, check out our video library.
Students are dropping out of school at alarming rates. While the overall dropout rate is 40%, 30% leave before ever reaching their sophomore year – and as of 2021, 71% of student drop-outs cited “emotional distress” as the reason. To say there’s a growing mental health crisis among youth is an understatement, as more and more students face anxiety, depression, and severe mental health concerns. Campus counseling centers are adapting quickly to meet the growing need for quality mental health care, but are often constrained by their own limitations. This is why Mantra Health, a leading provider of young adult mental health care, is working with leaders in higher education to expand service offerings, remove care barriers, and close mental health equity gaps.
Most colleges and universities have a counseling center and this is often the go-to resource for students in need of on-campus care. Often they exist independently of a school’s health center and include licensed counselors or therapists who are responsible for outreach efforts, preventative care, and one-one-one counseling sessions with students. Counseling centers provide vital services, but are often unable to meet student demand because of administrative responsibilities, limited resources, staffing challenges, budgeting constraints, and other factors.
Counseling centers don’t usually have the bandwidth to provide care on weekends, breaks, or over the summer months, nor do they have expertise in specializations, such as psychiatry, making it difficult to treat different states of acuity. To address these concerns, colleges and universities need to expand their mental health offerings to include more diverse and comprehensive care, such as teletherapy, telepsychiatry, crisis care, or unique therapy specialties, which are accessible at any time throughout the year.
Mantra Health has a diverse provider team, 50% of which identify as people of color and majority of whom are trained in unique specialities. Mental health needs are personal – and can occur at any time and place – which is why virtual offerings, flexibility, and personalization are necessary for college mental health care. University students are battling numerous stressors, including work obligations, financial strains, academic pressures, and busy social lives. We can’t expect students to wait three weeks to be seen by an on-campus counselor. More comprehensive needs require more comprehensive care.
Mantra Health, a clinically-informed digital mental health provider, offers colleges and universities a variety of telemental health services, along with an innovative, student-focused platform that supports flexibility, collaboration, and ease of care coordination. Mantra Health works with colleges and universities to provide teletherapy, telepsychiatry, and crisis care to students, but the major difference is Mantra Health’s willingness to work intimately with counseling centers to fill in gaps, provide additional services, continue care through breaks and summer months, and ensure students’ needs are met in whatever capacity they are needed.
On-campus counseling services are necessary to the overall health of a campus and Mantra Health has no intention of replacing them. Rather, the telemental health provider offers an extension of services, working closely with on-campus counseling centers to provide additional care to college students. If students don’t have a car or if they can’t visit the center due to work commitments, academic obligations, or other reasons, they can access teletherapy or telepsychiatry through Mantra Health’s interactive, easy-to-use platform. This is where counseling centers, care navigators, and providers can maintain regular means of communication, ensuring that a student’s care is managed most appropriately and effectively. Should a student need care beyond the academic school year, Mantra Health’s team of providers can work with the counseling center or student directly to extend the student’s offerings, preventing unnecessary disruptions.
Mantra Health takes an evidence-based approach to mental health care. All providers are held to the highest quality standard of care and must maintain clinical and cultural competence. They are highly trained experts who understand the unique needs of college students. Mantra Health’s providers have their own diverse backgrounds, specialities, and perspectives, making them well positioned to work with many different populations of students, many of whom are seeking providers who understand their personal experiences and mental health challenges.
Mantra Health is also one of the leading providers of telepsychiatry for young adults, a specialty area that is hard to find on college campuses, but incredibly important for the well-being of high acute students who face severe mental health conditions. Trained psychiatrists can work with on-campus clinicians and medical providers to assess the physical, mental, and psychological needs of a patient. This is incredibly beneficial when prescribing or managing medication or preventing a crisis situation from developing.
If you want to bring mental health services to your campus or learn more about Mantra Health, schedule a call with our partnership team today.
As employees resign at record highs, employee behavioral health benefits are becoming non-negotiable. Employees are looking for employers who support them in all aspects of their lives. This includes behavioral health resources not only for the employees but also for their families.
One area of workplace benefits that deserves more attention is employees who are parents of neurodiverse children. Parents are struggling to juggle the demands of work and caring for children with special needs. Employers could retain talent by offering family-focused, holistic offerings to support parents in these situations.
Alyssa Moreno, Senior VP of Marketing at Whil, shared more with us on employee behavioral health benefits for the whole family.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, a record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August 2021. Furthermore, Mental Health America’s 2021 Mind the Workplace report showed that 83% of respondents are feeling emotionally drained from their work. We’ve reached a critical state of mental health in the workplace and employers that don’t lean into supporting their employee population are at risk for being yet another statistic in ‘The Great Resignation’. Building mental health benefits into an employer’s offering is no longer a nice to have. Employees are savvy and they know they have choices. The pandemic has also brought a newfound clarity to how employees expect employers to show up for them and it starts with recognizing the world is in a very different place than it once was only a few years ago.
Personal Wellbeing is about how you take care of yourself as an individual. We like to say that you need to put your own gas mask on first before you can help anyone else or your organization. The Personal Wellbeing solution helps you to be the best version of yourself and offers hundreds of evidence-based mini-courses to help improve your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. We help employees reduce anxiety, learn to meditate, sleep better and more.
Our Professional Resilience solution helps empower employees with the skills needed to navigate challenges in the workplace. We help employees manage career stress, build emotional intelligence, and create high performing teams. In addition to our content for employees, we also offer skill-building courses for managers and leaders to play a proactive role in creating a healthy culture at work, with industry-leading courses for supporting DEI in the workplace.
Parenting & Caregiving provides families with clinically validated digital and live trainings to help manage challenging behaviors at home. Our solution is available to the entire family and can support parents, children, and other caregivers in and out of the home environment. We offer mental health courses for parents and children, social and emotional growth trainings for all children and foundational skills support for caregivers of children with behavioral disabilities such as Autism, ADHD, Dyselxia and more. What makes this solution unique is we also offer 1:1 consulting hours with our on-staff Board Certified Behavior Analysts who can offer more personalized approaches to care when it is needed most.
Roughly 1 in 6 children are born with some type of developmental challenge (ADD, ADHD, Autism, etc.) and we know that parents who raise children with developmental challenges are at higher risk for poor mental health as well as poor physical health. The Whil platform enables employers to holistically support parents of neurodiverse children with care for their children as well as themselves. We’ve heard time and time again that the personalized support provided by our BCBAs gives these parents a level of confidence that they’re on the right path. Here are just a few examples of ways in which our participants have benefitted from the holistic program and our 1:1 BCBA sessions.
“This program was so helpful to us in validating that we knew our child best, what was right for him and that we weren’t wrong in thinking our child needed some help not only educationally, but emotionally. It was a relief to talk to someone who understood our struggles and had a plethora of suggestions of things to try that were actually helpful.”
“This has helped my two boys tremendously. I am forever grateful. This program has given my boys the confidence to be successful in their reading and communication.”
“My son has ADHD. He’s struggled primarily with focus, impulsivity and attention span. He’s a fidgety, energetic guy with a huge heart and creative mind. I’ve used some of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned on creating task charts and facilitating more organized and smooth mornings and evenings for both of my children! I also learned more about our rights as parents for a student with challenges such as ADHD. The database is a treasure-trove filled with helpful information. When you are concerned about something with your kids, you can feel very overwhelmed and lonely sometimes. It’s great to have a positive place to go and learn, ask questions and get great advice!”
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has again addressed the devastating effects of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of young people.
According to the CDC, schools have direct contact with “56 million students for at least 6 hours a day during the most critical years of their social, physical, and intellectual development.” There’s plenty of data demonstrating that for a variety of cost, mobility, and time reasons, youth in underserved communities aren’t getting the access to high-quality health care they desperately need. However, school-based health centers can be a game-changing source of access to physical and mental health services for youth who need it most.
Hazel Health is already providing fast access to equitable physical and mental health care to millions of students nationwide. Students have access to their services regardless of their financial or insurance status. I was delighted to connect with the Hazel team and discuss how they are expanding healthcare access to children and teens across the country:
K-12 students are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. Before the pandemic, approximately 17% (1 in 6) U.S. youth ages 6-17 were experiencing a mental health condition each year, but as many as 60% of students (ages 12-17) with depression did not receive any treatment. Of the adolescents who did get help, nearly two thirds did so only in school. During the pandemic, depression and anxiety symptoms in youth doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Hazel Health believes that one way to make sure children and teens can access mental health services is to meet students where they spend their time - at school and at home. This removes so many of the barriers that students face when trying to seek mental health care, including months-long wait times to see a provider, transportation, and the difficulty of navigating the health care landscape to find appropriate, affordable, high quality mental health services.
At Hazel we have found that the line between physical and mental health isn’t black and white, particularly when working with children and teens. We partner closely with school nurses, who have always known that their students who visit them frequently, complaining of stomach aches or headaches, often have something else behind that - depression, bullying, and other issues outside their control at home or in their communities, such as food or housing insecurity. School nurses and counselors have always identified these issues - Hazel gives them a resource to connect them with to address both their physical and, when needed, mental health. Hazel therapists can see students immediately short term, and then work to connect them with a local therapist or other resources for longer term counseling.
We have focused on providing same-day service for physical health, and very short (1-2 week) wait times for mental health, to help close the gap for the 20 million children in the U.S. who lack access to high quality health care.
Hazel has a unique viewpoint - we work with school districts in both urban and rural communities. Transportation is a core challenge we solve, and that comes up in both rural and urban communities. In rural communities, the nearest clinic is often very far away. 23% of Americans in rural areas say access to good doctors and hospitals is a major problem in their community. However, in talking with parents and school staff, this issue is just as relevant in urban communities. In urban school districts, parents have shared with us that getting to a clinic that accepts their insurance is sometimes a 2 hour bus ride away, and costs $15. Compound that with hours of missed work to pick up their child from school, wait several days for a sick-visit appointment, travel to and from the clinic, and the cost for a family living on low wages becomes astronomical. For both urban and rural communities, entire family systems are helped when they can see a Hazel doctor or therapist right from school, and they are more likely to get care.
An additional benefit of making physical and mental health services more accessible, with less travel time or time waiting for an appointment, is that students miss much less school. In one study Hazel did with WestEd and the Department of Education, we found that nearly all telemedicine visits (94%) resulted in students safely returning to class by resolving immediate health concerns. Students who returned to class received, on average, three hours of instructional time remaining in the school day. This resulted in over 2,500 instructional hours saved over two years for this particular district.
At Hazel, addressing social determinants of health is a key component of our mission. Hazel was founded on the belief that great health care addresses not just a physical or mental ailment, but also the social and environmental context surrounding a person's health and well-being. For children across the country to experience improved health outcomes, we must consider the conditions in which they live and learn, and we must take steps to address challenges in their environment that contribute to poor health outcomes.
Economic stability is a key predictor of good health. Today, around 37 million people in the United States live in poverty and more than 16% of children under 18 years old live below the poverty line. Many people can’t afford healthy foods, health care and housing. Hazel serves all students, regardless of their financial or insurance status. This means that all children, those who have insurance, and those who don’t, can benefit from the service.
By providing access to physical and mental health care right from school, Hazel helps students remain in school, and parents at work (parents don’t have to take off work to take their child to the doctor, resulting in missed pay in many cases). Hazel’s Family Resource Managers help connect families to community resources such as food services and housing programs.
We recently developed a 1-page summary of Hazel’s impact across each of the 5 core social determinants of health for more of a deeper dive into this topic.
To learn more about Hazel, request a demo, or view career opportunities visit us at www.hazel.co
Amid the Great Resignation, employers are striving to support their employees in various ways. Mental health concerns have risen during the pandemic, which has created a need for employers to support the mental health of their employees. These times have been especially difficult for parents in the workplace. These mental health concerns are not only affecting them but also their children. In an attempt to help the entire family and ease the burden on the working parents, employers are increasingly interested in behavioral health benefits that are family-focused. Brightline has been in the spotlight for providing behavioral health care that is specifically designed for children, and they have recently published a guide for supporting the mental health of employees with kids. We spoke with CEO Naomi Allen about the importance of family-focused behavioral health benefits.
Kids aren’t just small adults! When it comes to behavioral and mental health, you really can’t just replicate what’s been built for adults and have it work for kids and teens. What’s going to work for you as a parent at 35 or 50 years old just isn’t right for a 3 or 15 year old. It seems obvious, but to do it right takes a lot of factors and designing specifically to work for each age range. So even from the start, you need to consider that the way kids present with behavioral and mental health issues is different, and how to address that — for example, depression in kids can often show up as irritability. Kids and teens confront different issues, and respond to therapeutic interventions differently. Managing tantrums, developing organizational skills for school, coping with teen’s self-esteem or tough stuff with friends — you need to be able to really meet kids and teens at their level, and tailor interventions to work for where they’re at in that moment, emotionally and developmentally.
Here’s a good example of what that could look like: you may have a middle schooler who is feeling worried lately as schools are shutting down again, and is having trouble sleeping. At Brightline, we would assess where that child is, and if their anxiety meets a clinical level of need. If so, we can get them started with a therapist to work through those worries, build coping strategies, and address the impact on their sleep. But maybe their anxious thoughts don’t hit a clinical level of need — in that case, we can get them into our “Sleep Made Simple” coaching programs to build skills for tackling the anxiety and related sleep issues, alongside self-guided content with their parent or caregiver.
This is exactly why Brightline isn’t adapted for kids, it’s built for kids. Everything we do is flexible and designed specifically to work for children and families — meeting them where they are emotionally, developmentally, and literally bringing it to them with virtual care. By engaging parents and caregivers in their child’s care, giving them access to progress updates and regular check-ins, they are supported and know how their child is progressing forward. Our coaching programs, therapy, evaluation and medication support, speech therapy, and ongoing support and resources for parents and caregivers alongside their kids, and for teens, in our digital platform — we’ve designed it truly to work for them.
For working parents and caregivers, juggling the demands of a full-time job and the complexities of seeking care for their child can feel completely overwhelming. Rates of behavioral and mental health needs among youth are skyrocketing. Parents and caregivers themselves are suffering too: more than half (59%) say they’ve experienced their own behavioral health challenges due to the stress of managing their children’s behavioral health needs.
This isn’t going away — we expect that the pandemic will have lasting impacts on mental health, and we need to get out ahead of this and support families so they don’t have to make the difficult decision to leave the workforce. We can meaningfully support parents and caregivers by giving them access to comprehensive behavioral health care for their children, through virtual care, coaching, and self-guided content — so that they can access what they need, when they need it.
We’ve felt this in our own company. The majority of our executive leaders, and many others on our team, are also parents to children under the age of 18 — some of whom have significant behavioral health needs. For many of our kids, those needs have been exacerbated during COVID. The ongoing uncertainty and changes during the pandemic have made it incredibly difficult to balance this all — some of us have had to cut back, or in past lives before Brightline, had to quit jobs to care for our kids. This shouldn’t be a decision parents have to make, yet it’s happening every day. We can, and must, change this by getting working parents and caregivers care that actually works for their children, and supports them, too.
This is all taking a real toll on working families and their employers: in fact, our 2021 Pediatric Behavioral Health Needs Survey found that one in five (21%) of parents and caregivers have either already quit their jobs in the last year or plan to quit their jobs in the coming year to better care for their children’s behavioral needs. There’s an increasing gap with women feeling burned out and leaving the workforce at higher rates than men.
We’re approaching the third year of the pandemic, and it’s costing employers. According to Gallup, replacing an employee costs half to two times the employee’s annual salary. When employees are having to spend so much time managing their kids’ behavioral health needs with limited or so support, there’s a significant impact on productivity, too. Add to that medical costs associated with employees’ own heightened mental health needs, and this has a significant cost burden for employers.
It shouldn’t be either/or for parents and caregivers. By making behavioral and mental health care for children and families a covered benefit, health plans and employers can connect families to much-needed support so they don’t have to choose between their careers and supporting their kids. Families deserve better, and companies have the power to change this situation.
I think we’re really seeing a shift in adoption of family-focused benefits. At Brightline, we’ve driven significant momentum in this past year to meet the needs of families. In the past year, we expanded our digital platform, Connect, and coaching programs to all 50 states, the first time comprehensive behavioral health care for kids, teens, and families was made available nationwide. We’ve now had nearly 14,000 parents and caregivers using Connect, in all 50 states. We’ve expanded our clinical services to cover 89% of the U.S. population in terms of the states where we have licensed therapists at the ready to work with families. We’ve seen fast and significant adoption by leading health plans and national employers who recognize the great need and impact bringing these services to their members will have — we’re now covering 24 million health plan lives, partnering with 35 employers, and are rapidly forging new partnerships and expanding access from here.
Want to partner with Brightline? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit hellobrightline.com to learn more.
Last week, three youth health agencies, American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association, declared a state of national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. Several health tech companies and GDBHT partners came together to inspire a call to action.
The declaration addressed the upward trend of mental health concerns for youth. It alarmingly noted suicide as the 2nd leading cause of death for 18-24 year-olds in 2018. Given the effects of COVID-19 and racial injustice over the past two years, the mental health of our youth has only worsened--disproportionately affecting youth of color. The industry cannot keep up with the elevated demand for mental health services. Youth are waiting weeks, or even months, to access the care that they need. The children who may have waited to seek care until they absolutely needed it now have to wait even longer. This can be an incredibly frustrating process for families who are already suffering.
This state of national emergency is a call to action and advocacy for crucial changes to address these issues and provide solutions to our youth. We believe technology will support the ability to address youth mental health in a more scalable way, and we’re proud to have some amazing innovators in our network. Learn more about some of our newest and existing GDBHT partners tackling these issues below:
BeMe Health, a digital behavioral health platform built specifically for teens, today announced that it has secured $7M in seed financing and partnerships with leading commercial and Medicaid healthcare payors to transform behavioral health for teens. Backed by Polaris Partners and Flare Capital Partners, the funding will be used to help accelerate and scale operations around BeMe’s unique tech-enabled approach to teen mental health. Board members and advisors also include Alexandra Cantley, Partner of Polaris Partners; Bill Geary, Partner and Cofounder of Flare Capital; Carolyn Magill, CEO of Aetion, Inc. and me!
Bend Health is a new healthcare company launched to increase access and reduce the cost of expert mental health care for families. It is revolutionizing the treatment of mental health conditions for kids and teens through a novel data-driven technology platform and evidence-based care model that enables the first scalable and integrated care solution in mental health. They’re also one of the few mental health providers who enable access to high quality teen and child psychiatrists within 48-hours or less through a clinically-validated collaborative care model (CoCM).
Brightline is the first full-family behavioral health solution built specifically to care for kids, teens, and parents across a range of common family challenges. With multidisciplinary care teams, personalized family system care, evidence-based care delivery, and extraordinary technology, Brightline is able to support families with whatever challenges they’re facing and ultimately help them thrive long-term. They recently announced a new partnership with another GDBHT partner, Violet, as part of their ongoing commitment to continue delivering inclusive care for the many communities it serves.
Hazel Health is the largest telehealth provider for K-12 schools, partners with school nurses, counselors, parents, and local providers to bring high-quality whole child health care to every student. Nearly 2 million students use Hazel for fast access to equitable physical and mental health care. Recently, they announced the addition of Dr. Travis Gayles as Chief Health Officer, Andrew Post as Chief Innovation Officer, and the promotion of Jeannie Chen to Chief Clinical Operations Officer, furthering the company's commitment to transforming access to quality healthcare for all.
Headspace Health - Earlier this summer, on-demand mental health care startup Ginger (now Headspace Health) had announced their new offering for adolescents ages 13-17, “Ginger for Teens.” Teens who are dependents of Ginger-eligible employees can gain access to text-based coaching, self-care resources, and if needed, twelve video-based therapy and psychiatry sessions at no cost via smartphone.
Holmusk - a leading global data science and health technology company building the world’s largest Real-World Evidence (RWE) platform for behavioral health, announced its abstract was published as part of the Proceedings of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) 68th Annual Meeting. AACAP’s Annual Meeting is the world’s premier gathering of child and adolescent psychiatrists. They stated that their results generated new insights that can inform policies and guidelines around the practice of polypharmacy for individuals with ADHD.
Hopelab is building a road map to deliver hope for the next generation through targeted social impact investments, translational research, and advisory services that focus on advancing solutions for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth mental health. A few months ago, Hopelab announced an external investment initiative, Hopelab Ventures, a commitment to partner with innovators who advance the well-being of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth.
For people who have a child or loved one struggling with OCD or disorders related to OCD, like Hoarding, Tics, or Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, it can be difficult to navigate. NOCD offers specialized OCD treatment, for people ages 5 and up, through live face-to-face video therapy sessions with licensed therapists. All NOCD therapists are trained in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy - the gold standard OCD treatment - and members receive support between sessions through the NOCD platform. In addition to our live face-to-face video therapy sessions, NOCD also offers educational resources and guidance through sessions designed for family members, caregivers, and friends of those with OCD and related conditions. These sessions help them support their loved ones in their progress and provide guidance on how to assist them through difficult situations.
Telosity by Vinaj Ventures invests in companies addressing gaps in care by developing affordable and scalable solutions to support youth mental well-being. They recently published some research revealing Gen Z is leading the charge to change society’s perception and approach to mental health challenges.
Log into our library to watch the entire Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech youth track here for free.
Some of you know that I came into this space first as a very anxious teenager. I was gripped with panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder as an adolescent, but with very few places to turn to online. It was at that time that I started a blog to help other teens with anxiety, ultimately nurturing my interest in technology and online communities for mental health. 15 years later, adolescent mental health issues are more prevalent than ever, with 9.7% of youth in the U.S. having severe major depression in 2021, compared to 9.2% in last year’s Mental Health America dataset.
However, there is also reason to be very hopeful: with increased attention to youth mental health through the pandemic, more resources are pouring into the topic than ever before. Philanthropies like Pivotal Ventures are leading the charge in investing resources into adolescent mental health. States like California are allocating unprecedented funding in student mental health. New youth mental health startups are emerging and established mental health startups are tailoring their services to youth.
I run The Upswing Fund for Adolescent Mental Health, a philanthropic collaborative fund seeded by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda French Gates’ personal investment and incubation company. I’ve also had the great pleasure of serving as an advisor for the Telosity fund and Hopelab for a few years now. This year at Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech’s 2021 conference (#GDBHT2021), we had an entire track dedicated to youth mental health. I’m thrilled to share some thoughts from Allyson Plosko, Director of Telosity, and their approach to investing in youth mental health startups:
17% of young people experience a mental health disorder. Despite the well-established benefits of intervening early, a significant portion of these kids—as high as 60% for those suffering from major depressive disorder—don’t receive the care they need. It’s clear that the traditional way of delivering mental health services is leaving many young people in need, and we think there is a huge opportunity to leverage mental health tech tools to support young people where they are, which, like most of us, is online. While the youth mental health tech market is still relatively nascent, we are excited by the immense potential to positively impact young people and hopefully reduce the impact mental health issues have on a young person's life trajectory.
The confluence of events over the past year and a half have shown that we need more inclusive, authentic ways to virtually connect. Even before the pandemic, young people were struggling with loneliness. In a study done by Cigna, members of Gen Z ranked as the loneliest generation. While it might be easy to place all the blame on technology, we actually think that thoughtfully designed tech tools can be a really important part of helping young (really, all) people feel more connected to others.
Ksana Health is improving mental health through objective measurement and personalized interventions. Ksana Health was born out of academic research from the CEO, Nick Allen, Ph.D., who is widely known in the field for his research in adolescent mental health. Aside from the expertise of the team, what initially attracted us to Ksana Health is the problem the company is solving around mental health measurement. There currently isn't an efficient way to understand the state of an individual's mental health and determine whether that person might be at risk of a crisis. We think solving this challenge will help unlock care delivery models that better triage individuals, allowing clinicians to practice at the top of their license and increase access to those who need care the most.
Log into our website for free to see so many rich youth mental health sessions co-hosted with Telosity and Hopelab here, including Ksana Health, Dr. Wizdom Powell, and so many more.