Many teens today are not okay—that’s the bottom line of both government data and the observations of Talkspace therapists. Per the CDC, 42% of high school students reported feeling very sad or hopeless and 22% seriously considered attempting suicide. In a survey of Talkspace providers who work with teens, 63% report that they believe the mental health of high schoolers has gotten worse over the past two years (and only 8% say it has improved).
It’s not easy for teens to get mental health support. School counselors are often seriously overstretched, therapy is financially out of reach for many teens, and even those who can pay for therapy find that therapists have months-long wait lists due to a nationwide shortage. But teens can’t wait: Nearly 6 in 10 youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment, and, tragically, 12 American teens die by suicide each day.
With numbers like these, it’s clear that teen mental health challenges are more than a personal problem, they’re a public health emergency. Now, the nation’s biggest city is making a huge move to provide its young people with potentially life-saving support: With a new program called NYC Teenspace, the NYC Health Department is offering every city resident ages 13-17 free mental health care, powered by Talkspace.
This first-of-its-kind citywide initiative makes therapy and mental health education available at no cost to any NYC teenager, regardless of income, insurance status, and where or whether they attend school. Here’s how it works:
- Teens 13-17 can visit talkspace.com/NYC from a computer or mobile device and enter their birthdate and address to qualify.
- They choose to start with an online assessment and mental health education and self-guided exercises designed for teens, or they can sign up for one-on-one therapy with a Talkspace therapist who is licensed in New York and has experience treating teens.
- When a teen chooses therapy they’ll need to enter a parent or guardian’s information so Talkspace can obtain parental consent, then the teen will answer questions about the issues affecting them so we can pair them with a therapist who will be a good fit.
- Teens can message their therapist any time through the secure Talkspace platform, and therapists typically reply 5 days per week. They can also schedule one 30-minute live virtual session with their therapist each month.
Studies conducted by major research institutions have demonstrated that Talkspace message-based therapy is equally effective as face-to-face therapy for common mental health conditions. The convenience and privacy of message-based therapy is especially appealing to many teens, who appreciate the ability to text their therapist in the moment, whenever they need to vent or ask for support.
“Teens love the option of messaging and having daily access to their therapist,” says Talkspace therapist Christine Lamirande, LCMHC.
“Many teens seem more comfortable with messaging therapy—it is different for each teen but the availability of it seems to be comforting for them,” adds Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC.
The team of Talkspace therapists who are available to work with NYC teens have a wide range of specializations and areas of expertise. They can support those with conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, and more, and are also available to teens who don’t have a mental health condition and who simply need a private and objective person to talk to about school, relationships, and the stresses of daily life.
New York City is one of the most diverse populations on the planet, and our therapists are diverse too: About 35% of Talkspace’s NY-licensed therapists identify as BIPOC, 30% are either LGBTQIA+ or have experience working with LGBTQIA+ individuals, and they speak 30 different languages (we also can provide real-time translation support in 120 languages).
Although Talkspace is not a suicide prevention or crisis line, our platform does monitor messages in real time to detect signs that a teen might be at risk of self-harm, and alerts the therapist there might be an issue. If needed, we have processes in place to elevate any immediate crisis situation.
Because the teen mental health crisis is as complex as teens themselves, simple solutions don’t exist. But there’s one thing our therapists know for certain: “Teens are vividly clear in stating their wish for more support, attention, understanding—simply, ‘to have someone in their corner’ or ‘have their back’,” says Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW. “This is not ambiguous—teens say it routinely. Their wish amid frustrations is to be heard, but also for someone to take the time to understand.”
NYC Teenspace offers New York City teenagers that person who will listen, that space to be heard, and a path to gaining greater understanding of themselves and how to navigate their worlds. It’s our hope that by making this level of professional support convenient, private, and more accessible to a teen population than ever before, Talkspace will play a role in both preventing some of the most tragic outcomes of teen challenges and helping young people establish strong mental health foundations. From these foundations they can weather the stresses of today and work to chart brighter futures.
Interested in learning how Talkspace can support teen mental health in your school, district, or community? Reach out to learn more.