By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH
Teen mental health has hit crisis-level concern these days, and seed-funded startup BeMe Health is hoping to help with a digital mental health app purpose-built just for teens. Fast Company labeled the app as “TikTok for teen mental health,” which is a spot-on description of its exciting, social-media-like look and feel, but a bit of an undersell of the evidence-backed behavioral health care the app is actually providing.
Co-founders Nicki Tessler and Mandeep Dhillon introduce us to BeMe, and tell us why they believe the TikTok-like approach they’re taking – with its emphasis on short, engaging video content that’s “served up” rather than “sought out” thanks to smart algorithms that link mental health goals with in-app behavior and engagement patterns – is key to winning the buy-in of digitally-native teens.
While apps like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok have lately received criticism for their role in harming teens’ mental health with algorithms that drive content consumption to increase ad revenue, BeMe is hoping to use those same tactics to drive content consumption that will increase a teen’s ability to manage stress, learn coping skills, build resilience, identify their emotions, and even help coach one another.
Beyond product design and market fit (winning teens is not enough, parents need a place in this too) Nicki and Mandeep also talk us through BeMe’s business model, which is evolving along with the app’s development. The startup’s $7 million dollar seed funding is “connected” to payers – nine of the top 10 health plans, says Nicki – and so the initial strategy is based on a per-member-per-month model and will be launching in coordination with pediatricians and therapists, as well as with schools, before it goes direct-to-consumer. Still the question remains: If mom, dad, or the doc recommends it, will a discerning teen really will want to do? Listen in to find out if BeMe’s sticky videos, teen advisory board, and algorithms sound like they’ll bridge the generation gap and start shaping a different kind of mental health care for this important phase of life.