Partnering with Colleges to Improve the Mental Health of Students Everywhere
An online therapy solution for college students suffering from mental health issues now exists thanks to Cody Semrau, Founder & CEO of the impact and mental health startup BetterMynd, a Washington, DC Founder Institute portfolio company. Motivated by his own personal experience with mental health issues in his otherwise happy senior year of college, Semrau set out to lower the barriers of access to talk therapy for over 20 million college students across the United States.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Tice, 75% of lifetime cases of mental health conditions begin by the time people are 24 years old. By offering counseling services from the convenience of one’s laptop or smartphone, BetterMynd lowers the barriers of access to help for students early on, before their symptoms develop further. The students also have the ability to choose when and where to receive help, which increases their chance of getting that vital help in the first place. According to the company,
1 out of 3 colleges has a waiting list for students to get into their counseling center, with wait times often stretching to two weeks or more.
Breaking Stigma, and Eliminating Barriers To Help
Mitigating the wait time by providing appointments with counselors in the evenings or on weekends is a key benefit that BetterMynd’s secure therapy platform provides. This availability helps students who cannot afford to wait, and students whose schedules don’t provide time for typical 9-5 appointments. Their service helps ensure that students receive help early on, which means waiting just a few days for an appointment rather than colleges’ standard few weeks or months-long wait. By the end of 2019 the impact startup saw over 3,000 students register, most of whom took advantage of the nights and weekend sessions offerings--particularly during midterms and finals.
Students can choose or be matched with a counselor based on their own needs and preferences. Selecting a counselor allows students to work with someone who identifies with a certain racial identity or who specializes in a particular mental illness. The health startup's transparency is important because racial and ethnic minorities receive disproportionately less care, and tend to respond better to providers who understand their cultural background. In addition, while 1 in 4 college students experience a mental health issue, less than half receive any treatment.
This is critically important, because a wide number of mental health symptoms can lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death amongst teenagers and young adults (NIH).
Because BetterMynd is HIPPA and FERPA compliant, students can speak with their counselors and therapists in private. Currently the sessions are available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and French. Additionally, the health and well-being startup works with universities to establish emergency protocols for students who may need immediate attention.
Exclusive interview with the CEO of BetterMynd
Update: This interview was conducted during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place in May of 2020, 3 months after this article was initially published.
BetterMynd also lowers the barrier to receiving help through eliminating the need to commute to a physical office. For students who live off-campus or who struggle to get out of bed, this unnecessary step saves a considerable amount of time, energy, and in many cases, money. Founder Semrau, a fraternity brother perceived to be tough, happy, and strong, found that the stigma of physically going to counseling centers still exists. Through BetterMynd, that stigma becomes one less obstacle or inconvenience for students to consider.
Students often discover BetterMynd through their college’s website, social media, online marketing, and through direct referrals from college counseling centers that are highly impacted. As Semrau stated,
Colleges are seeing greater demand for their counseling resources than ever before and often times just don’t have the capacity to keep up.
Therapy sessions on BetterMynd are 45-60 minutes in length, and most students average between three to six sessions. BetterMynd partners with and sells directly to colleges to offer services to the college's students.
Interested in bringing BetterMynd to a college near you? Submit your information through BetteMynd's website.
Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $950M in funding, and building products people love across over 185 cities worldwide.
See the most recent news from our Grads at FI.co/news, or learn more about their stories at FI.co/journey.