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June 14, 2016

Consumer Behavioral Health Companies are Democratizing Access to Mental Health Professionals

multi-colored hands painting

Private: Jared Hyatt

Although my evidence is largely anecdotal, I believe seeking help for mental wellness has become increasingly more acceptable, open, and available.  My peer group is both supportive of, and eager to learn more about ways to improve their and their loved ones’ mental health.

Just the other day, a friend explained the new techniques she learned to help her cope with her crippling panic attacks.  When asked where she learned these skills, she openly explained that her “great therapist” taught her.  Similarly, while at breakfast with a different friend last week, he shared that he practiced Transcendental Meditation to quiet his mind and cope with his grief after his father passed.  In each instance, I think this new trend of transparency and availability via new services and technological advancements will bring about change for the health of America and open up new opportunities for people to seek help.

My generation is already familiar with the experience of paying to improve our physical well-being, whether it’s an $80 monthly gym fee or an annual One Medical membership, so why would we not want to invest in improving our mental well-being?  This preconceived consumer behavior, coupled with my own network’s struggle with mental wellness, piqued my interest in the consumer behavioral health space.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 4 adults, or approximately 60 million Americans, experience mental illness.[1]  That is a remarkably large number affected, and a discouraging statistic, considering many of the conditions like depression and anxiety disorders are often treatable.

Fortunately, there are more solutions and professional services available in America than ever before and the stigma around mental health is gradually decreasing. One of the biggest driving forces behind this shift is technology. Americans can now leverage content, programs, and therapists made accessible via mobile devices.

There are many fascinating companies that have recently launched products to help improve mental wellness, ranging from those that guide you in mediation (Headspace) to those that can help you to reduce social anxiety through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Joyable).

I am very pleased to say that after a year of carefully evaluating opportunities in the consumer behavioral health care space, Norwest has invested in Talkspace.

Talkspace was founded by a dynamic husband-wife duo, Oren and Roni Frank, who passionately believe therapy should be available to everyone.  Roni realized the traditional model and cost of therapy prevented millions of Americans from accessing it.  She then convinced her husband Oren to leave a high-paying, prestigious corporate job to help build Talkspace.  They built Talkspace as a platform that connects patients with licensed therapists, and allows the two to use asynchronous texting or audio/video chat to continue a conversation.  During our diligence, therapists explained that their patients are making real therapeutic breakthroughs using this new text modality.

Most exciting to us, we found that Talkspace is expanding the market for therapeutic services.  More than 50% of Talkspaces’s users had no previous experience with therapy, which is a huge testament to its mission of making therapy more accessible.

We at Norwest are excited to partner with Roni and Oren, to help them to further realize their mission, and to ensure that many more users, who seek therapeutic help, can access it in a costly, timely, confidential, and helpful manner.