Starting this month, digital mental health company Talkspace will begin offering its telehealth services for free to all New York City teens between the ages of 13 and 17, the company announced Wednesday.
New York City-based Talkspace works with insurers and employers and offers access to therapy, psychiatry and self-guided mental health support.
Through the new program (called TeenSpace) with the New York City Health Department, teens will be able to connect with a Talkspace therapist through phone, video and text. They’ll be able to access the services via computer or smartphone by visiting talkspace.com/NYC, and will have to verify their birthdate and address.
The teens will be able to choose between two tracks: one that is more focused on mental health education and self-guided exercises and one that offers one-on-one therapy with a Talkspace therapist. For those who choose therapy, they will have to provide a parent or guardian’s information to gain parental consent (though there are some exceptions, such as if the child is at risk at home). The teens will also answer questions about the challenges they’re facing, and Talkspace will pair them with a therapist. They’ll be able to message their therapist at any time and can have a 30-minute virtual session each month.
“The teen issue for us is a moral imperative. It’s something we need to do [and] we should lead in because of the crisis that’s occurring in that population,” said Dr. Jon Cohen, CEO of Talkspace, in an interview at the Behavioral Health Tech 2023 conference held in Phoenix.
The partnership between Talkspace and New York City is a $26 million contract for three years. It comes after the city pledged earlier this year to make mental health services available to teens.
“Our young people shouldn’t ever feel alone. We’re here for them, and together I know we’ll build a healthier, stronger city together,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a statement.
To get the word out about the program, the city and Talkspace are launching a campaign through social media and in partnership with influencers. Schools will also be marketing the program through posters, videos, messages in counselors’ offices and other areas.
“[The program] will only be successful if we get people to use it,” Cohen said.
About 42% of high school students have reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and 22% have seriously considered suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program aims to bend the curve on this stat, said Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, chief medical officer of Talkspace, in an interview.
“When we look at the prevalence data that’s out there, it’s really pretty disheartening. … The impact given the need amongst this population in particular has a really high potential,” Benders-Hadi said.
Several other digital mental health companies work with teens as well. This includes BeMe Health, which just partnered with Inland Empire Health Plan and Molina Healthcare of California to bring its services to teens in schools in two California counties.
Photo credit: Bohdan Skrypnyk, Getty Images