Investments in Tech-Enabled Solutions for the Youth Health Market Are Growing, But More is Needed

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The kids are not alright. The magnitude of the youth mental health crisis is staggering, as numerous government and media reports have revealed. 

Between 2007 and 2018, the suicide rate among youths ages 10-24 increased by 57%, reports the U.S. surgeon general. Between 2009-2019, persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40% for U.S. high school students and attempted suicides by 36%.

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There is no one reason, but rather a jumble of issues feeding the maelstrom: the rise of social media, bullying, poverty, racism, gun violence, climate change and academic pressure have been building for more than 10 years. 

The pandemic has heightened the crisis, created more urgency, and brought these longer-standing issues into the light.

Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics and two other medical groups declared a national emergency in child and adolescent health. A CDC report found more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% said they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.

The adverse effects of the pandemic on our youngest citizens can’t be overstated; during the past two years, their world was rocked with instability. Parents lost their jobs, or much worse, their lives. Kids were displaced. Child abuse soared, as did feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Limited access is its own crisis

The crisis is further heightened because of limited access to in-person therapy. How quickly you can see a therapist – or if you can see one – often depends on geography, affordability and healthcare insurance reimbursement.

The Congressional hearing earlier this year on children’s mental health noted the average 11-year delay between the onset of mental health symptoms and the initiation of treatment. At the hearing, Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, “Mental health care simply isn’t starting early enough, and it’s not reaching young people where they are, particularly kids in rural areas.”

Insurance companies don’t always provide reimbursement. Indeed, just 56% of psychiatrists accept commercial insurance, compared to 90% of non-mental health physicians. Out-of-pocket costs for traditional therapy can run from $65 to $250, making it financially prohibitive for many. 

Reaching youth with tech solutions

There is high demand for youth wellness and mental health technology solutions, and investors and startups have a unique opportunity to create innovative programs that reach out and support our youth at scale. While technology isn’t a panacea for every mental health disorder, it can help augment professional care and offset issues of access and paltry reimbursement rates.  Americans are on onboard with the idea of incorporating technology into their mental health routine – according to our recent survey, over 80% are willing to do so.

Tech solutions can also open the door for digitally native youths accustomed, and often more comfortable, to go online to find a solution or seek help. Even though they are struggling, many young people don’t reach out for help, for a variety of reasons: they are embarrassed, they don’t know whom they can trust, they don’t have access to care, they can’t afford the cost of therapy. But many would use a tech-enabled solution, including texting, as it’s a much more comfortable way to talk about what they’re going through or find a solution. 

For young people who feel marginalized in their community, a virtual network with like-minded people may be their only possibility for connection. For LGBTQ youths in rural areas, for example, there are often inadequate resources, such as support groups, in their region. These young people may also fear the consequences of being seen attending a group.

For LGTBQ youth, accessing online networks such as Trevor Space and chats with mental health experts can provide a lifeline. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 60% of LGBTQ youth could not get support and help for their mental health concerns. Using technology, we can create online communities where peer groups, led by a professional counselor with similar life experiences, support each other.

Advantages of mobile apps 

Many investors and startups consider mobile apps the channel to help address some of the challenges in the space. A mobile phone can facilitate access to resources or someone to talk to when and where the patient wants it. It gives young individuals privacy and allows for some ambiguity and time to explore options while remaining anonymous and not being judged.

It also takes advantage of the younger generation’s comfort with technology and leverages the reality of the ubiquity of screens in their lives.

Using tech-based solutions also lets us tap into data to drive the personalization of youth wellness applications. For example, one tech startup, Ksana Health, brings objective measurement and intervention to mental healthcare. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, it uses the data to understand the individual’s behavioral health needs and how they interact with their phone to recommend personalized solutions.

Most schools are not prepared to deal with the elevated levels of stress and anxiety their students are experiencing and the anti-social behaviors that might result. More than half of American students – 51% –  attribute their mental health challenges, including  depression and anxiety, to school. Neolth‘s mobile app for students providesindividualized mental health education plans with self-guided practices for building resilience and health tracking. The app is also used by school’s health educators and counselors, offering content and resources for reducing stress and anxiety that they can share with students. 

Digital health tools, used responsibly, can help improve the delivery of youth mental health and wellness services. These digital apps are not replacements for in-person or telehealth therapy but can help support professional mental health solutions. As the demand grows for services and solutions to help resolve the youth mental health crisis, the need for investment and innovation also grows. It’s time to get busy.

Telosity by Vinaj Ventures is an innovation and investment services boutique consulting firm. Telosity by Vinaj Ventures focuses on early-stage companies with affordable and scalable solutions to improve mental well-being in young people. Companies that Telosity has supported include Daybreak Health, Flipd, Ksana Health, Manatee, Maslo, MindRight, MyLife (acquired by Meredith Corporation) and Neolth. For more information, please visit www.telosity.co. To view the latest Telosity report on Youth Wellness & Mental Health, visit: https://www.telosity.co/mkt-guide.

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Anish Srivastava
Founder & CEO at

Anish Srivastava is the founder and CEO of Vinaj Ventures, an innovation and investment services firm based in the San Francisco Bay area. Vinaj Ventures’ consulting arm helps clients build new digital products with excellent user experiences. Its investment services function specializes in market analysis, sourcing, evaluating and investing in startups.

Anish is passionate about investing in concrete, commercially viable solutions that can have a positive impact on society and providing support to entrepreneurs who are looking to make a meaningful difference. A proof point is Telosity by Vinaj Ventures, the fund he founded in 2019 that invests in early-stage companies that provide affordable and scalable solutions to improve mental well-being in young people – especially in underserved communities.

Anish is a member of the Alliance of Chief Executives. He serves as a board member and in advisory roles to a number of organizations. Prior to Vinaj Ventures, Anish led Citi Ventures' Global Lab Network & Accelerators and was a key leader in JP Morgan Chase's Digital Customer Experience & Innovation organization. He also held various senior and executive positions at startups such as Egreetings, Geodesic and Lexy, where he pioneered new consumer-facing mobile services. Anish spent six years at Orange, building the mobile innovation practice in Silicon Valley, followed by driving strategic partnerships in London as Director of Business Development. Early in his career, Anish was part of the development team that built Bank of America's first online banking website, along with its first credit card website.

Anish graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science and French. His interests include soccer, cooking, running and traveling with his family.