Over 47 million adults in the United States reported having a mental illness between 2017 and 2018, and of that 47 million, about 11 million reported having serious mental disorders.
In a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half (45%) of adults reported that their mental health has been negatively influenced by stress and worry around the coronavirus.
There's no doubt that the pandemic is catalyzing a mental health crisis and low clinician-to-patient ratios, varying levels of stigma, late diagnoses, increased costs, and more prevent traditional healthcare systems from tackling this issue effectively.
That's why the Stanford Brainstorm Lab at Stanford's School of Medicine created "PSYC 240: Designing for the 2 Billion Leading Innovation in Mental Health" and "PSYC 242: Mental Health Innovation Studio: Entrepreneurship, Technology, and Policy" in 2017 and 2020 respectively. The sister courses are designed to equip the next generation of entrepreneurs with the skills and strategies to create companies, tools, and technologies to improve mental healthcare.
These are the first ever university courses on mental health innovation, covering the fundamentals of patient challenges and needs, the healthcare system, and human-centered product design.
The course is spearheaded by faculty from Brainstorm: The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, the world's first academic laboratory dedicated to transforming mental health through innovation and entrepreneurship, and taught by four psychiatrists and experts of mental health technology and innovation: Dr. Nina Vasan, Dr. Gowri Aragam, Dr. Neha Chaudhary, and Dr. Steven Chan.
In the course, faculty highlight that different communities need different levels of care, the diversity of biological, psychological, and social issues that people can face, and how to meet people where they are by personalizing treatment and delivery needs. At the end of the course, students have a final assessment where they have to pitch their company idea and business plan to a "Shark Tank"-style panel of industry leaders and course instructors.
"In speaking with students as well as startup CEOs, engineers, investors, and other stakeholders who were a part of early-stage ventures, we saw that there was a lot of passion to improve mental health, but most people did not have the exposure to mental healthcare to understand the nuances of the patient experience or the healthcare system. As a result, they were building products that were not addressing the right problem in the right way, and ultimately were not leading to changes in patient outcomes," Vasan, founder and executive director of Stanford Brainstorm, said.
The teachings of this course have driven student-led companies with over millions of dollars in funding, such as women's mental health studio and digital platform Real by Ariela Safira, class of 2017. Real recently raised a $3.5 million funding round led by Forerunner Ventures and followed by the Female Founders Fund, BBG, SoGal, G9 Ventures, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
"As a clinician, Dr. Vasan validating me to start a mental healthcare company inspired me to think far bigger than an app or an Apple Watch feature," Safira told Business Insider. "I realized I could evolve mental healthcare by building in-person and virtual therapy clinics, hiring clinicians, and reinventing both training and therapy."
Stanford students from all academic disciplines as well as entrepreneurs, engineers, and venture capitalists from the Bay Area are welcome to take this quarter-long course. Non-Stanford affiliates have to apply for a permit to attendand pay the Permit to Attend tuition fee, currently listed at $5,291 for this class.
Studying mental health requires looking outside the bounds of the traditional healthcare system, Aragam, course director and Stanford Brainstorm's director of education, said.
"Unlike other fields of medicine where you can rely on lab values or purely objective data to define your targets, you can't see and feel mental health in the same way," Chaudhary, an instructor and Stanford Brainstorm's chief research officer, added. "Many mental health startups end up failing because of this lack of a clear understanding of the problem in mental health."
Chaudhary emphasized the importance of learning from other innovator's mistakes as they designed this part of the course.
"Many innovators start by targeting the wrong customer," Chaudhary said. "Here, the end user is not always the customer. We've seen interventions for kids that may not be used or bought by healthcare providers or even parents, but that may be bought by schools or even health plans who are invested in early intervention to keep later costs down and improve outcomes."
After extensive internal market research and experience consulting for mental health startups, the Brainstorm team saw that mental health products created by actual clinicians themselves may be backed by scientific rigor, but lack understanding of effective product design and delivery and have unsustainable business models. Meanwhile, business and tech innovators that create mental health products generally have compelling designs that attract and engage consumers, but lack scientific rigor and an understanding of the problems that need to be solved.
"We wanted to make sure our students knew the nuts, bolts, and nuances of what it means to be mentally and emotionally healthy straight from the perspective of psychiatrists before they started to build," Chaudhary said. "We walked them through what the mental health system looks like, who the stakeholders are, and what the illnesses and their solutions look like clinically. We then illustrated how this information could be applied beyond the healthcare system, especially using innovative tools."
Max Savage, class of 2017, took the course, which provided him a foundation for his mental health startup, Altas Mental Health, a wellness journaling app funded by Sequoia Capital Scouts, Kleiner Perkins, Reach Capital, UP2398, and a number of others. Since publicly launching the app this March, they've been able to support over 75 schools across the country for free through their Stand with Schools Initiative, as millions of teens are struggling to adjust to school closures and the uncertainty of COVID-19.
"At the time, mental health tech was like the Wild West, an open frontier that offered the chance to provide real social impact in a space of great need. To this day, it's still a tricky space," said Savage. He added, "PSYC 240 helped 21-year-old me see a lot of things that worked and a lot of things that didn't work, which helped us better position our company to play in a space that maximizes social impact and financial viability."
PSYC 240 brings in industry experts so that students can learn about the successes of other initiatives while designing their product. Guest lecturers have included Tom Insel, founder and president of Mindstrong Health, Set Shakur, president of the Tupac Shakur Foundation, Antigone Davis, global head of user safety at Facebook, and Dennis Boyle, health lead at IDEO.
Anika Sinha, a freshman at Stanford University, said that Dennis Boyle was her favorite guest speaker and introduced her to the concept of design thinking. Boyle led the class through a five-minute brainstorming sessions where, in groups, they wrote ideas on a sticky note to solve a particular mental health issue and then shared what they came up with as a team.
Anika Sinha's group proposed to change the algorithm of the "explore" page on Instagram to not be so tailored to an individual's searches or hashtags. If these images promote poor body image, they can create a negative feedback loop for a user who may suffer from or be at risk of developing an eating disorder.
So, her team suggested that there can be more body-positive posts promoted to counteract the harmful searches someone with an eating disorder might engage in. Her proposed product later entailed the The Healthy Student Body Initiative, a program that enhances students' access to scientifically-valid educational information on eating disorders and available resources and reduces the friction involved in accessing the appropriate level of care.
"Design thinking helped us design our project because it pushed us to think of the missing links in eating disorder apps," she said. "We wanted to create something geared toward college students, given the much higher rates of eating disorders within adolescents and athletes."
Faculty of the course believe that technology has the potential to disrupt the current healthcare system and more effectively tackle the modern mental health crisis.
"If you look at the current mental health system, much of it was built in pieces based on a variety of things like the year's legislation, local preferences, and available humanpower," said Chan, a course instructor of PSYC 240 and faculty affiliate of Stanford Brainstorm. "And a big criticism of the field of behavioral health is the difficulty in navigating this 'system.' Harnessing engineering talent and connected technologies would ease access and approachability issues for mental health."
- This town of 170,000 replaced some cops with medics and mental health workers. It's worked for over 30 years - CNN - July 5th, 2020
- Donnelly: Progress on horizon for mental health - The Columbian - July 5th, 2020
- Mental health strain on firefighters must not be swept under the rug - Las Vegas Sun - July 5th, 2020
- People in mental health crises need help, not handcuffs - STAT - STAT - July 5th, 2020
- Mental health myth: Mental illness is the same for people of all races - BlueRidgeNow.com - July 5th, 2020
- Pandemic mental health: the urgency of self-care - The European Sting - July 5th, 2020
- JOHN ROSEMOND: Is there a child/teen mental health crisis? - Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - July 5th, 2020
- Peak Wellness Center to host webinar focused on Minority Mental Health Awareness Month - Wyoming Tribune - July 5th, 2020
- Mental Health Greensboro Offers Support This Summer - The Rhino TImes - July 5th, 2020
- Love Island's Belle Hassan opens up on mental health - digitalspy.com - July 5th, 2020
- Providing mental health support for youths affected by COVID-19 - Swinburne University of Technology - July 5th, 2020
- How the Cult of Sleep-Deprivation Affects Work and Mental Health - Harvard Business Review - July 5th, 2020
- Can snoring affect mental health? Heres what you need to know - The Indian Express - July 5th, 2020
- Mental health expert suggests ways for coping with coronavirus crisis - The News International - July 5th, 2020
- Swimming out of the darkness: How cold-water swimming helps with mental health - ABC News - July 5th, 2020
- Mohena Kumari on Covid-19 isolation affecting mental health: I had a lot of anxiety during those d... - Hindustan Times - July 5th, 2020
- Anand Mahindra believes we may be confronting a mental health crisis. Here's why - Times Now - July 5th, 2020
- How neuro-knowledge can help us find happiness and improve mental health - ABC News - July 5th, 2020
- How is mental health manifesting itself in the insurance world? - Insurance Business - June 22nd, 2020
- Native American groups address mental and behavioral health as COVID-19 wears on - Salt Lake Tribune - June 22nd, 2020
- Will digital mental health solutions thrive after Covid-19? - Medical Device Network - June 22nd, 2020
- ATAI dives into digital therapeutics to boost mental health care - FierceBiotech - June 22nd, 2020
- While Some Experts Brace For Tsunami Of Mental Health Issues, Others Predict Crisis Will Be Short-Lived - Kaiser Health News - June 22nd, 2020
- Defund police? Some cities have already started, investing in mental health instead - USA TODAY - June 22nd, 2020
- Discussion: You Don't Have To Go Far To Improve Mental Health - WCCO | CBS Minnesota - June 22nd, 2020
- Post-traumatic growth will happen in some after Covid-19 ends - STAT - STAT - June 22nd, 2020
- UPDATE: Police reopen east Bloomington area after addressing 'mental health crisis situation' - Bloomington Pantagraph - June 22nd, 2020
- Mental Health and Sleep Behaviors Are Affected by Diabetic Neuropathic Pain - Endocrinology Advisor - June 22nd, 2020
- 'You are not alone': The pandemic is causing increased anxiety. Here's how to get help - Desert Sun - June 22nd, 2020
- Usher's New Look and Cricket Wireless to Host Virtual Youth Mental Health Summit Addressing the Effects of COVID-19, Systemic Racism and Social... - June 22nd, 2020
- Mental Health Court receives funding for second year - The Owensboro Times - June 22nd, 2020
- Mental health conditions are not a normal part of aging: Dr. Brad Lucas - cleveland.com - June 22nd, 2020
- 'A culmination of crises': America is in turmoil, and a mental health crisis looms next - USA TODAY - June 22nd, 2020
- Covid-19 affects BAME youth mental health more than white peers study - The Guardian - June 22nd, 2020
- UW study looks at the long-term mental health toll of lockdowns - MyNorthwest.com - June 22nd, 2020
- The mental health victims of the pandemic the role of intervention - National Health Executive - June 22nd, 2020
- FCF|REACT Capacity Building on Adult and Child Mental Health - ReliefWeb - June 22nd, 2020
- Three Corners Health hopes to bridge the gap through online mental health forum - Williams Lake Tribune - June 22nd, 2020
- Larimer County, Fort Collins spar over location of behavioral health facility - Coloradoan - June 22nd, 2020
- Pandemic takes a toll on mental health of US residents, new national survey shows - News@Northeastern - June 22nd, 2020
- In the name of #MentalHealth - Mumbai Mirror - June 22nd, 2020
- Uthappa bares it all to raise awareness on mental health and suicide prevention - The New Indian Express - June 22nd, 2020
- Woman Behind Bars With Severe Mental Illness Gets Moved From County Jail - levittownnow.com - June 22nd, 2020
- As activists call to defund the police, mental-health advocates say the time is now to rethink public safety - MarketWatch - June 22nd, 2020
- WRITE TEAM: COVID-19 and mental health/addiction impact - MyWebTimes.com - May 26th, 2020
- Food Service Workers Are on the Brink of a Mental Health Crisis. These Efforts are Helping. - Civil Eats - May 26th, 2020
- 'We are all going through this:' Albany County mental health hotline helping hundreds - Albany Times Union - May 26th, 2020
- Here2Help Mental Health Coalition Library Forum: How to Recognize and Support People in Emotional Distress - TAPinto.net - May 26th, 2020
- VIDEO: YouTuber shows what it's like to have anxiety and panic attacks - Insider - INSIDER - May 26th, 2020
- Mental health and social isolation: how do have an active participation in self-care? - The European Sting - May 26th, 2020
- Cahill calls for mental health unit to be restored, expanded in Kingston - The Daily Freeman - May 26th, 2020
- Copper Ball virtual auction to benefit northern Arizona behavioral health - Arizona Daily Sun - May 26th, 2020
- Online therapy having its moment, bringing insights on how to expand mental health services going forward - The Conversation US - May 26th, 2020
- 'Like an earthquake with many aftershocks,' Coping with mental health and substance abuse issues during pandemic - Monadnock Ledger Transcript - May 26th, 2020
- Mental health apps draw wave of new users as experts call for more oversight - CNBC - May 26th, 2020
- Free Therapy and Mental Health Services You Can Access During the Coronavirus Outbreak - MSN Money - May 26th, 2020
- Mental health: How to care for yourself during the pandemic - CNN - May 26th, 2020
- Covid 19: This form of yoga can improve mental health, suggests study - The Indian Express - May 26th, 2020
- We Need to Take Action to Address the Mental Health Crisis in This Pandemic - TIME - May 26th, 2020
- Katie Lou Samuelson on mental health journey -- 'I realized I needed to ask for help' - ESPN - May 26th, 2020
- 3 signs that your coworker may be struggling with mental health issues - Fast Company - May 26th, 2020
- Singapore-based Intellect wants to lower barriers to mental health support in Asia - TechCrunch - May 16th, 2020
- Take care of your mind: mental health at JMU - The Breeze - May 16th, 2020
- The government will spend $48 million to safeguard mental health. Extending JobKeeper would safeguard it even more - The Conversation AU - May 16th, 2020
- Mental health expert panel discusses how to best deal with differing opinions on COVID-19 - WSAW - May 16th, 2020
- Greater Olean Area Mental Health Professionals Talk About How They Cope With the Pandemic - TAPinto.net - May 16th, 2020
- Letter to the Editor | Mental health requires more attention - Daily Illini - May 16th, 2020
- Mental health therapist concerned about telehealth reimbursements after emergency proclamation ends - KCRG - May 16th, 2020
- Coping Through COVID: The Importance of Mental Health - Patch.com - May 16th, 2020
- Suicide Prevention Aims To Get Ahead Of Pandemic's Added Pressures : Shots - Health News - NPR - May 16th, 2020
- Virtual mental health help for nurses at the front line of COVID-19 pandemic - Wink News - May 16th, 2020
- Experts worry about effects of coronavirus pandemic on those with mental health issues - CBS News - May 16th, 2020
- In China, covid-19 has focused attention on mental health - The Economist - May 16th, 2020
- Deaths and hunger strikes point to mental health crisis on stranded cruise ships - The Guardian - May 16th, 2020
- Im a survival psychologist, and this how weeks of social isolation is affecting your mental health - Well+Good - May 16th, 2020
- No Stigma Nevada: Its the worst time to skimp on mental-health resources - Elko Daily Free Press - May 12th, 2020
- Texas mental health counselors see influx of patients during coronavirus - The Texas Tribune - May 12th, 2020
- COVID-19 and your mental health | Health - Payson Roundup - May 12th, 2020
- Mental health in the workplace: The final frontier - Daily Herald - May 12th, 2020
- With a rapid shift to telehealth, Washburn Center is providing mental health services to children and families - MinnPost - May 12th, 2020