New York City–based Talkspace (Nasdaq: TALK) will provide its home city’s teens with free talk therapy through a program called NYC Teenspace.
Announced Wednesday by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Talkspace CEO Jon Cohen, the program will include intermittent check-ins and allow teens to establish relationships with therapists.
It’s not clear how many teens are expected to use the services. At this point, it also isn’t clear what impact providing such a service to the teen population of the largest city in the U.S. will have for Talkspace.
“NYC Teenspace” is for adolescents aged 13 to 17. The latest U.S. Census figures show that New York City is home to 940,000 adolescents ages 10 to 17, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business.
“It is clear that our kids are not alright, and it is our duty to address the problem, not to ignore the problem and pretend as though it doesn’t exist,” Adams said at a press conference. “Earlier this year, we pledged to make mental health support available for all New York City teens: Now we are delivering on that promise.”
This may be the first of what appears to be multiple deals with cities or other large organizations to connect teens with mental health services.
Earlier in the month, Cohen told Behavioral Health Business that Talkspace would have an announcement of a major partnership launching in a few weeks. He also said that there will be similar partnerships to come.
“It’s going to be more than one,” Cohen said at the time. “There’ll be a couple of announcements for different, specific jurisdictions.”
He also said that it was a “moral imperative” for the company to address teen mental health.
On top of the moral case, there is a compelling business case.
“There’s 25 million high school students in the country,” Cohen told BHB. “So no matter how you cut it, it’s a very big market.”
NYC Teenspace will feature Talkspace’s signature digital asynchronous therapy, which allows phone calls, video chats and texting with therapists. Founded in 2012, Talkspace is an incumbent in the virtual therapy space.
Talkspace’s services are accessible via cell phone. That was seen as a requisite by New York City officials.
“It’s an amazing way for us to deal directly with young people, so they can feel comfortable in the mechanism that they utilize,” Adams said, likening telehealth services to a modern-day therapist’s couch. “This service will introduce young people to the value of mental health support.”
Youth mental health has steadily been on the decline. Earlier in the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing that teen girls, LGBTQ teens and teens that are racial minorities have faced a troubling rise in mental health issues in the 10 years ending in 2021.
About 30% of American youth report having received mental health treatment at some point in the previous year, in 2022. About 14% received care via telehealth. And roughly 14% of teens contemplated suicide, while about 4% attempted suicide, according to new federal mental health data.
Still, the greatest hurdle facing NYC Teenscap is awareness, according to Cohen and city officials.
“This is a groundbreaking program; however, it can only be successful if we make teens aware of the program and get them to utilize the service,” Cohen said at the press conference.