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.
Youth mental health is a hot topic right now – especially among LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth. What signals and trends are exciting you most as you see new solutions for this population?
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.
- The first is Medicaid. 39% of young people 0-18 years old are covered by Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low income Americans. Hopelab portfolio companies such as Brave Health, MindRight Health, and Hazel Health are prioritizing Medicaid as a pathway to provide access to much needed services for young people who might not otherwise be able to find or afford them.
- The next is family-based care. To improve youth mental health, it is important to understand the context in which they live, and to empower their loved ones and caregivers with the tools to meet the needs of the young people in their lives. Hopelab portfolio companies such as Equip, InStride, and Manatee incorporate families into their care models, ensuring that teens are sustainably supported even when their therapy sessions end.
- We’ve also been excited to see the growing emphasis on cultural competency. For LGBTQ+ and BIPOC young people in particular, it can be challenging to find solutions that value and understand their cultures, communities, challenges, and beliefs. Hopelab portfolio companies Violet and Hurdle have made it their mission to ensure that providers are well-equipped to meet the needs of their diverse patients.
- We’re also seeing a number of non-clinical solutions that meet young people further upstream, rather than through the healthcare system. One example is our portfolio company Idoru, which allows users to create hyper-realistic digital avatars that they can use to create content online. While Idoru is not a clinical intervention, it is designed to improve mental health, allowing young people to experiment with identity and self-expression in ways that may not be safe or feasible in their physical surroundings.
What is Hopelab's role in the youth mental health industry in advancing these technologies?
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:
- Targeted social impact investments via Hopelab Ventures, where we invest in and partner with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and innovators who are committed to advancing mental health and well-being outcomes for young people.
- Hands-on product support for digital innovation via Hopelab Studio, where we leverage our expertise in research, design, strategy, youth co-creation, and health equity to advise partners in making their offerings more youth-centered, beautiful, and effective.
- Translational science partnerships via Hopelab Discovery, where we catalyze collaborations across academics, innovators, funders, and policy makers to support science-driven tech innovation.
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.
What is Hopelab's approach to ensuring these technologies meet the needs of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth?
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.