BetterUp recently made headlines when they announced that Prince Harry would act as their chief impact officer. BetterUp is a coaching platform for better mental fitness and health. BetterUp focuses on resilience, leadership, and motivation rather than psychotherapeutic treatment for mental illness. There has been a boom in the metal heath tech sector this past year with many companies like BetterUp seeing significant growth and investment.
In July BetterUp announced that it had raised $125 million in investment. This increased the company's valuation to $1.73 billion. In an interview with the Financial Times, co-founder of the company, Alexi Robichaux compared the surge in growth to the dotcom boom. He further went on to say that the boom was, "only possible because of technology." One of the primary drivers for this latest surge of investment and interest in the sector is the Covid-19 pandemic.
See also: 3 Ways Tech is Helping Improve Mental Health
The Covid Effect on Metal Health Tech
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a two-fold impact. One it has made the use of digital apps, platforms, and channels more mainstream. We have seen an increase in users from all age groups relying on digital platforms to gain access to services. As people were forced to stay home and businesses closed down, online platforms saw a sharp uptick in usage. This means that overall people are more comfortable turning to an app or a platform for needs. The other impact of Covid has been that people are becoming more conscious about their mental health. The sudden isolation brought on by stay-at-home orders, the disruption to day-to-day lives, and the anxiety brought on by the devastating impacts of the pandemic have all taken a toll on the mental health of individuals. About 4 in 10 US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic. A world that is more comfortable being online, more cognizant about the importance of mental health, and willing to seek help has created the perfect storm for a boom in the metal health tech sector.
What's Next for the Mental Health Tech Sector
There has been some research done on the use of digital channels for therapy and other mental health applications. However, much of this research has been restricted to virtual therapy. There has been some evidence that people are more comfortable with virtual therapy and this could reduce the barrier for entry. Thus making mental health support more accessible to people. However, there have also been concerns raised that virtual therapists might miss important non-verbal cues. This creates the need for them to be more attuned with their voice, empathy, and visual cues.
Overall the consensus seems to be that technology is making mental health care more accessible and having some form of support is better than not having any. As an increasing number of our interactions move online, the future for the mental health tech sector looks bright. As recent news indicates investors are willing to put significant money in these companies.
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1. May. 2021, "Digital Health Dealmakers Push Mental Health Tech Funding To New Highs. Here Are The Emerging Categories & Themes In A Surging Sector", CBInsights, [available online] available form: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/mental-health-tech-funding/
2. Aug 2021, "BetterUp rides the mental health tech boom", Financial Times, [available online] available from: https://www.ft.com/content/ede64fdd-e3f5-48b6-9b7b-59731a225468 [accessed Aug 21]