One in five women experience a mental health condition each year, yet finding affordable, relevant, and convenient mental healthcare is like navigating a labyrinth; the system is riddled with long wait times, high out-of-network costs, and a shortage of local mental health providers with the right expertise.
According to a 2018 study in collaboration with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, an alarming 47 percent of women are considered at high risk of developing a mental health disorder, due not only to the traditional burden of caregiving responsibilities, but because of disorders that are unique to women, like postpartum depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. (The study also found women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.) Despite more than half of Americans (56 percent) seeking help, U.S. mental health services are insufficient, with the root problem lack of access—or the ability to find care. Stepping in to fill this gap are 14 women-founded mental health startups reimagining the mental health system, offering everything from virtual group therapy and behavioral health for children to a psychedelic drug hoping to replace antidepressants.
Twenty-five-year-old founder and CEO Ariela Safira launched Real in 2019, a membership-based platform offering an accessible approach to therapy and mental health for female-identifying people. Her original plan was to launch an in-person mental health studio in New York City in April 2020, but COVID-19 forced Safria to pivot and launch a digital mental health offering at a time when it was needed most. With a specific focus on making it easier for women of color to access treatment, Real offers a range of independent and group mental health experiences starting at $28 per month, addressing everything from sexuality, anxiety, managing anger with family members and other real-world issues, like loneliness.
A startup providing virtual therapy for eating disorders, Equip is now taking patients ages 6-24 in California, Texas, New York, and New Jersey. The online platform makes support for eating disorders more accessible while challenging traditional forms of treatment. Co-founded by Kristina Saffran and Dr. Erin Parks, Equip’s family-based treatment assigns patients a five-person dedicated care team—including a peer and family mentor, medical physician, therapist, and dietician—and treatment plans are customized to fit each family’s schedule.
After years of experiencing difficulty finding a therapist, Coa’s founders Alexa Meyer and Dr. Emily Anhalt created a “match” tool that allows customers to be matched with highly experienced and compassionate therapists from a wide range of backgrounds and specialities. With online mental health workshops and classes, Coa focuses on the importance of Emotional Fitness in an six-week deep-dive series with courses that range from leadership to stress control.
Founder and CEO April Koh launched Spring Health to provide employers with a comprehensive and effective solution for employee mental well-being. Using a proprietary assessment and machine-learning technology to understand all of the conditions a person may be experiencing, Spring Health uses those results to match them to a care plan personalized to their needs. Each member has access to a Care Navigator to help guide them through their options, assist in booking appointments with therapists, and connect them to domain experts across work-life, legal, or financial services.
Curated by and for BIPOC women, the EXHALE app features meditations, guided imagining, breath work, affirmations, and coaching to help its female-identifying customers release all that isn’t serving them in life anymore. Created by sought-after coach, author, and podcast host Katara McCarty, EXHALE provides a safe space to release stress at your own pace, with a focus on self-healing and emotional well-being.
After navigating the complex behavioral health space for her own child, founder Naomi Allen launched Brightline to help children and young adults struggling with their mental health, all while involving parents in the treatment process. Offering a range of services from therapy and coaching to speech therapy, children and their families can virtually meet with their clinical team via the Brightline app.
As the only therapist matching solution built specifically for clinicians, KindMind connects healthcare workers to therapists in a trusted space where an expert can truly understands their background and experiences. Founded by Marcie Cheung at the beginning of 2020 after recognizing the difficulty clinicians faced when trying to access mental health providers, Kindmind’s mission is to revolutionize mental wellness for healthcare workers.
Altopax‘s virtual group therapy platform allows highly specialized mental healthcare providers to connect with people who need care. Founded by healthcare and pharmaceutical investor Narmeen Azad, Altopax allows people to access care with a cohort of peers who are experiencing the same behavioral health issues or chronic illness, while their mental healthcare providers can coordinate with any relevant medical providers to deliver personalized, integrated care that is both affordable and convenient.
A Helm portfolio company, Tia now offers virtual mental health talk therapy and medication for anxiety, depression, and stress management. Tia therapists are trained to care for distinctly female mental health concerns—they look at how a woman’s hormonal state can affect immune function, brain function, and moods and mental wellbeing to develop a personalized mental health plan that connects and enhances physical health.
Spiritune is a music-based app that utilizes principles of neuroscience and music therapy for positive mental health outcomes, such as stress reduction, emotional regulation, productivity, and performance. Founded by Jamie Pabst, Spiritune allows users to play music that is scientifically composed to relieve stress—whether you’re trying to get into a focused and purposeful work flow or winding down from a long day at work.
Launched in 2021, Aphrodite Health is a psychedelic biotech company introducing psychedelic medicine to address mental and physical health battles that are overlooked by modern medicine. Founded by four women (Tesla La Touche, Victoria Armstrong, Olivia Mannix, and Vestaen Balbuena), the company is focusing on disrupting the existing antidepressant market with a long-term drug discovery program to bring a low-dose, targeted, take-at-home psychedelic FDA-approved drug to market.
Guardian Lane is an on-demand grief counseling service for children. Founder and CEO Kristina Jones launched Guardian Lane to create a teletherapy booking platform exclusively for children, where certified and licensed children’s counselors can upload videos of their therapy exercises for Guardian Lane clients to watch, create, and share.
To be a pregnant Black woman is to be at risk, regardless of economic background. This is exactly what prompted co-founder and CEO Nathalie Walton to launch Expectful, the #1 meditation and sleep app for new mothers. Originally founded as a guided meditation library, Walton is evolving the company into a “go-to wellness resource for hopeful, expecting and new parents,” including peer-reviewed service recommendations to help a mom find everything from a therapist to a live-in nanny.
With more than 100,000 customers, MyWellbeing is a mental health platform that matches clients to the right therapist or coach while also helping providers grow their businesses within their professional community. Founder and CEO Alyssa Petersel started MyWellbeing to improve access to trusted therapists within the New York area in promotion of the concept that therapy is an asset for all.
In a world where stress is a given, we must learn to master it to ensure it never masters us – together. Co-founders Caroline Early and Jasmine Mansouri launched Pillar to help those seeking physical wellness and personal growth by working with Pillar’s Wellness Coaches who are all accredited by the National Board of Medical Examiners. For every coaching session done at Pillar, the company funds a coach from a low-income community by supporting them through their National Board of Health & Wellness certification.