How Venture Capitalists Are Reshaping The Landscape Of Mental Health

Health care software which offers a platform that makes therapy accessible and stigma-free for a patient suffering from anxiety, depression, and mental health issues. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg photo credit: © 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

There has been a long-standing stigma associated with people who have mental health issues or invisible disabilities.  This is in large part due to how society has stereotyped people with mental illness viewing them in a negative light and castigating them as having a propensity to being more violent or even dangerous. However, the reality is that 1 in 5 people have a diagnosable mental illness and 1 in 20 people have difficulty leading their everyday lives due to chronic mental health issues.  Over the past several years there has been a cultural shift and a broader awareness around mental health and the need for social acceptance. Popular culture has been a driving force in reshaping public opinion and musicians such as Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato to athletes such as NBA players Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan have been very vocal about their own struggles with mental health. While these celebrities offer the first salvo in breaking down barriers and redefining the conversation around mental health the real game changers are going to come through the act of entrepreneurship and it is venture capitalists leading the charge.

Both venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have a clear understanding of the enormity of the ongoing mental health crisis. They believe we are at a watershed moment where technology offers a potential solution to enhance the quality of life for people dealing with mental health issues as well as the inefficiencies within the healthcare infrastructure. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have realized that the current mental health ecosystem falls short in five key areas:

  • Misdiagnosis – 60 percent of Americans go undiagnosed and never seek mental health treatment.
  • Inadequate drug prescription – In the United States, 80 percent of psychotropic drugs are prescribed by primary care physicians rather than psychiatrists. In the UK 75 percent of general practitioners have prescribed medication despite feeling that psychological therapies would have been more effective.
  • Therapist Shortage– There is a 26 percent appointment rate in the United States with an average of a 25-day waiting period. It is estimated that 75 percent of people in the UK with mental health issues may never get access to the treatment they need.
  • Cost– The cost of mental health issues in the US is $201 billion dollars and 105 billion pounds in the UK respectively every year. This does not include loss of productivity in the workplace and other comorbidities.
  • Workplace discrimination- Today, almost two out of three people who have received hospital treatment for mental health related issues state they have experienced some form of discrimination at work when trying to get employment.

Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have focused heavily on transforming the space and launching promising new companies that will redefine the mental health community. Funding for VC backed start-ups have almost tripled within the past year going from $322 million in 2017 to $793 million in 2018.

While mental health technology is still in its infancy, the market has expanded into several decisive areas that are shaping the future of the industry, however, entrepreneurs and VC’s seem to be concentrating  on launching startups that are using technology as platforms for both consumers and professionals which looks to  increase access while lowering the costs of mental healthcare. Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT) is a mobile interface app that is designed to focus on self-care and behavioral changes to deal with a myriad of mental health-related issues. These start-ups are primarily direct to consumer reiterating Apple’s evaluation that pegged self-care as one of its top four trends for 2017, saying “never before have we seen such a surge in apps focused specifically on mental health, mindfulness and stress reduction.”  Companies like Calm, Headspace and Happify are three of the major players in this evolving marketplace. On the care side of mental health tech, Teletherapy and Telepsychiatry startups offer therapists the ability to interface with clients digitally or the capability to create a virtual practice digitally from the ground up. The key startups in this sphere are Lyra, Talkspace, Ableto, and Ginger.

With the rise of mental health technology, a new language of business is evolving. For persons with mental illness or invisible disabilities, we are at a moment of real change where investors are realizing that the business of disability is ever expanding and has tremendous nuance and value that is yet to be discovered. More importantly, the business of disability is looking at happiness as a value proposition. Consumers are looking for solutions to improve their quality of life from reducing stress and anxiety, boosting energy to developing a more effective strategy for overall emotional well-being.  Finding ways to invest in long-term human sustainability creates an opportunity for people to live happier and more balanced lives.

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Health care software which offers a platform that makes therapy accessible and stigma-free for a patient suffering from anxiety, depression, and mental health issues. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg photo credit: © 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

There has been a long-standing stigma associated with people who have mental health issues or invisible disabilities.  This is in large part due to how society has stereotyped people with mental illness viewing them in a negative light and castigating them as having a propensity to being more violent or even dangerous. However, the reality is that 1 in 5 people have a diagnosable mental illness and 1 in 20 people have difficulty leading their everyday lives due to chronic mental health issues.  Over the past several years there has been a cultural shift and a broader awareness around mental health and the need for social acceptance. Popular culture has been a driving force in reshaping public opinion and musicians such as Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato to athletes such as NBA players Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan have been very vocal about their own struggles with mental health. While these celebrities offer the first salvo in breaking down barriers and redefining the conversation around mental health the real game changers are going to come through the act of entrepreneurship and it is venture capitalists leading the charge.

Both venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have a clear understanding of the enormity of the ongoing mental health crisis. They believe we are at a watershed moment where technology offers a potential solution to enhance the quality of life for people dealing with mental health issues as well as the inefficiencies within the healthcare infrastructure. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have realized that the current mental health ecosystem falls short in five key areas:

  • Misdiagnosis – 60 percent of Americans go undiagnosed and never seek mental health treatment.
  • Inadequate drug prescription – In the United States, 80 percent of psychotropic drugs are prescribed by primary care physicians rather than psychiatrists. In the UK 75 percent of general practitioners have prescribed medication despite feeling that psychological therapies would have been more effective.
  • Therapist Shortage– There is a 26 percent appointment rate in the United States with an average of a 25-day waiting period. It is estimated that 75 percent of people in the UK with mental health issues may never get access to the treatment they need.
  • Cost– The cost of mental health issues in the US is $201 billion dollars and 105 billion pounds in the UK respectively every year. This does not include loss of productivity in the workplace and other comorbidities.
  • Workplace discrimination- Today, almost two out of three people who have received hospital treatment for mental health related issues state they have experienced some form of discrimination at work when trying to get employment.

Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs have focused heavily on transforming the space and launching promising new companies that will redefine the mental health community. Funding for VC backed start-ups have almost tripled within the past year going from $322 million in 2017 to $793 million in 2018.

While mental health technology is still in its infancy, the market has expanded into several decisive areas that are shaping the future of the industry, however, entrepreneurs and VC’s seem to be concentrating  on launching startups that are using technology as platforms for both consumers and professionals which looks to  increase access while lowering the costs of mental healthcare. Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CCBT) is a mobile interface app that is designed to focus on self-care and behavioral changes to deal with a myriad of mental health-related issues. These start-ups are primarily direct to consumer reiterating Apple’s evaluation that pegged self-care as one of its top four trends for 2017, saying “never before have we seen such a surge in apps focused specifically on mental health, mindfulness and stress reduction.”  Companies like Calm, Headspace and Happify are three of the major players in this evolving marketplace. On the care side of mental health tech, Teletherapy and Telepsychiatry startups offer therapists the ability to interface with clients digitally or the capability to create a virtual practice digitally from the ground up. The key startups in this sphere are Lyra, Talkspace, Ableto, and Ginger.

With the rise of mental health technology, a new language of business is evolving. For persons with mental illness or invisible disabilities, we are at a moment of real change where investors are realizing that the business of disability is ever expanding and has tremendous nuance and value that is yet to be discovered. More importantly, the business of disability is looking at happiness as a value proposition. Consumers are looking for solutions to improve their quality of life from reducing stress and anxiety, boosting energy to developing a more effective strategy for overall emotional well-being.  Finding ways to invest in long-term human sustainability creates an opportunity for people to live happier and more balanced lives.

The Source: Jonathan Kaufman, Contributor. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).