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The Top 5 Mental Health Startups of 2020

By Rachel Warren – Jun 14, 2020 at 8:11AM

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These five mental health startups offer apps and online services for one-on-one counseling, meditation, mindfulness, and more.

If the events of the last several months have taken a toll on your mental and emotional health, you're certainly not alone. A poll operated by the American Psychiatric Association in March found that 48% of Americans suffer from anxiety over the prospect of contracting coronavirus. The poll also revealed that 36% of Americans believe the COVID-19 crisis has significantly affected their mental state. In April, the Kaiser Family Foundation released findings from a national poll also conducted in March, which found that 72% of Americans have experienced the impact of the pandemic on their lives in some form or another.

In this day and age when technology, science, and medicine are more intertwined than ever before, the launch of digital health start-ups across all specialties is on the rise, including in the mental health arena. Hundreds of mental health start-ups have sprung up over recent years, offering a range of services: connecting you to a live therapist, helping you get a better night's sleep, and providing extensive libraries of deep breathing and meditation exercises. Virtual mental healthcare has received heightened attention during the COVID-19 crisis, but will undoubtedly continue to be in high demand as people come to terms with the new normal in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Anyone can benefit from knowing about these resources that are available to them, and investors should be aware of these popular startups, as some may move toward conducting initial public offerings (IPOs) in the coming years. Without further ado, here are the top five mental health start-ups to watch in 2020.  

man having virtual therapy session

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Talkspace

Talkspace is one of the leading online therapy providers in the modern virtual mental health landscape. Founded in 2012, Talkspace matches users with a licensed therapist they can communicate with via video, audio, or text messages. Subscription plans for one-on-one therapy, as well as couples and teens therapy, are available through the Talkspace platform. In March, Talkspace announced it was offering 1,000 months of free therapy to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has since stated that these free therapy hours have been completely booked, but that medical personnel on the front lines can now access the Talkspace Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plan at 50% off.

Talkspace offers several different subscription plans, and payments can be made monthly, quarterly, or biannually. For example, if you were to select Talkspace's Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus option for one-on-one therapy, you'd be billed $260 monthly, $708 quarterly, or $1,248 twice a year. With this particular service, you can connect with your therapist five days a week via video, audio, or text messaging.Talkspace partners with various health insurance carriers, so consult your benefits and coverage if you're interested in these services.

To begin, you undergo an assessment with a therapist, which helps Talkspace determine how to best match you with your dedicated, licensed therapist. After the assessment, you pick the plan that works for you and you're assigned to your therapist. Talkspace's messaging platform is open any time of day or night, so you can privately chat with your therapist whenever you need to, and you can expect a response once or twice per day. There is also the option to schedule a video conference if you require additional support, which costs $65 for every half-hour video chat. You can access your Talkspace account online or download the app on Google Play or the App Store. 

2. Headspace

California-based start-up Headspace was founded in 2010. Originally an events company specializing in mindfulness and meditation, Headspace launched its app in 2012. The app is available for download on Google Play and the App Store, or you can create an account online and log in on your computer.

The app offers a wealth of meditation and mindfulness courses, from morning meditations to music and stories for sleep to 15-minute stress release workouts. The Headspace Plus plan is free for the first two weeks if you choose the annual subscription, which is $69.99 per year. You can also choose a monthly subscription plan, which is $12.99 per month, and receive your first week on the plan free.

Headspace is offering those who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic 12 months on the app completely free of charge. The company has also made its app free for healthcare workers through the end of the year.

3. BetterHelp 

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform and subsidiary of digital health giant Teladoc (TDOC 2.05%), which acquired BetterHelp in 2015. Counseling sessions are available for adults, teens, and couples. BetterHelp offers monthly memberships for sessions costing from $60 to $100 each week. BetterHelp's counselors are licensed and credentialed professionals, and include clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, and accredited psychologists.

Once you sign up for the BetterHelp platform, you will be assigned a counselor based on your particular needs. You can message your counselor at any time using a mobile device. In addition to online messaging, you can communicate with your counselor via live chat, video, or phone, depending on your preference. BetterHelp has an app on Google Play and the App Store.

4. Brightside

Brightside is a relative newcomer to the mental health start-up scene. Founded in 2017, Brightside offers services in some states to those 18 and up who are struggling with depression. The company partners with a network of licensed therapists and doctors across the country and has a clinical advisory board of professionals who have graduated from leading universities, including Yale and Stanford.

The company offers several monthly subscription plan options: Brightside Medication, Brightside Therapy, and Brightside Medication + Therapy. Medication plans are available in 27 states. Therapy services are available to residents of 11 states. Brightside has stated that it intends to add more states into its network soon, along with video chat options.

If you choose the Brightside Medication Plan only, the cost is $95 per month plus $15 per prescription or your pharmacy copay. With this plan you receive a virtual assessment, monthly prescriptions sent to your home for the duration of your care plan, and ongoing access to your doctor, who will oversee your treatment. The combined Brightside Medication + Therapy plan is $240 per month plus $15 per prescription or your pharmacy copay and includes unlimited online messaging with your therapist. If you choose the Brightside Therapy Plan only, the cost is $165 per month for unlimited online chat with your assigned therapist.

5. Calm

More than 50 million users around the world have downloaded the Calm app, which is available on Google Play and through the App Store. Founded in 2012 and based in San Francisco, Calif., Calm offers a range of resources through its subscription-based app, including mindfulness audio programs, guided meditations, sleep stories, and relaxing music tracks. The app is available for download at $69.99 per year, with the first week free. 

You can also select the lifetime subscription option for a one-time purchase of $399.99. Calm has made a variety of free resources available on its website in response to the coronavirus pandemic and is offering one year of Calm Premium for 40% off, which is a service that unlocks the full library. The company has also partnered with Kaiser Permanente, which is currently offering qualifying members free access to Calm's premium content.

What should investors think?

If you're an investor interested in mental health start-ups, it's possible that one or more of these companies has piqued your interest. I think Talkspace and Headspace are the two most likely to consider an IPO within the next few years. Both companies are in late-stage funding. Talkspace completed a Series D funding round in May of last year for $50 million. Headspace's last funding round was held in February. The Series C round raised $53 million in equity and $40 million in debt financing for Headspace. To date, Talkspace has raised over $106 million in funding, and Headspace more than $168 million. 

While both companies have considered an IPO, neither has disclosed definitive plans to go public in the near future. That's really not surprising, especially given the volatility of the coronavirus market, which has already caused a number of companies to hold off on IPOs. But these are two companies to watch as the market moves toward recovery.


Rachel Warren has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Teladoc Health. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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