NYC teens now have free access to therapy through a new initiative. Photo: priscilla du preez

The virtual mental health company TalkSpace recently hosted a webinar to delve deeper into its TeenSpace program, a new initiative funded by the city to provide free online therapy for New York City teens, as The Unmuted’s Nicole Perrino reported.  

As we go through the holidays — a notoriously tough time for people with mental health issues, many of whom report worse symptoms around this time of year — Epicenter is highlighting some tips and information on teen mental health from clinicians during the TalkSpace webinar. You can also watch the whole webinar here

Why the focus on teens? 

The high need 

About 42% of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, TalkSpace experts pointed out, citing the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Among them, female students are twice as likely to experience these persistent feelings and twice as likely to attempt suicide in the past year, the report also shows.) LGBTQIA+ students are even more likely to experience mental health concerns, the data continues to show. And about 50% of all lifelong mental illnesses start by age 14, according to data by the National Alliance on Mental Illness cited by TalkSpace.   

The access issue

There’s this, too: Despite the high need for teen mental health services, there’s a shortage of school-based mental health clinicians. The national average of student-to-counselor ratio is stark: 408:1 (nearly double the recommended ratio).    

On the teen brain

The teen brain makes adolescents more prone to high-risk behavior, TalkSpace points out. As the parts of their brain that process information and control impulses are still developing, teens might be more excited by short-term rewards of certain behavior than fully understanding negative consequences. This has long been documented in numerous studies on adolescent development. 

On warning signs of teen mental health concerns

If a teen who generally likes spending time with their friends is suddenly withdrawn, or is usually studious and starts getting into trouble at school, those might be warning signs around mental health concerns. Other changes, such as grades slipping, seem irritable more often, or express feelings of hopelessness, might also signal a teen can benefit from talking with a licensed professional. TeenSpace is one such opportunity to talk or text with a mental health clinician. 

On TeenSpace

A few reminders for families considering trying TeenSpace:

•It’s free to sign up and is accessible by phone or other digital device. 

•TeenSpace provides a direct line to a licensed mental health professional via a secure platform for teens to talk things out. 

•Teens don’t need to have a diagnosis or a condition to sign up. 

•Texting with a mental health provider is a key feature of the program, and video sessions are also available once a month if teens prefer to connect live.  

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