Mom, Dad, and son posing together for the picture.

Bend Health believes that child psychiatry has complexities that adult psychiatry does not have, and that’s why they’ve enhanced their family-based, collaborative care model.

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.

If just one person within the family is struggling, why do you focus on the whole family?

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.

With incredibly long average wait times in the U.S., how is Bend Health's in-take process speeding it up?

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. 

How do collaborative care models at scale improve the care process?

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.