Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Men, Mental Health, and Tech Meet Ups

With this Sunday being Father’s Day and June being Men’s Mental Health Month, I have been thinking about men and mental health. Often, the discussion about men and mental health focuses on how bad things are – high rates of mental health problems, particularly substance use disorders and suicide – and low rates of treatment seeking. Like oil and water, the vast majority of men stay away from mental health services even when they could benefit tremendously from seeking help.

Which is why I have recently been especially intrigued by a number of conversations I have had with young men who are mixing things up and challenging that norm. Young men dominate the world of tech startups, and among these innovators, meetups on mental health are on the rise. They are tackling tough questions and asking how technology can help promote mental health and improve the delivery of mental health services. With the help of technology and new models, men and mental health are finding many opportunities to meet.  

1. Delivering Evidence-Based Care Remotely. Founded in 2018 by Ed Gaussen, Matt Kennedy, and Dr. Ravi Shah, Mantra Health provides remote treatment to individuals with ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. After completing an online assessment, individuals schedule video consultations and get a personalized care plan. This can include medications, therapy, and lifestyle modifications. With ongoing engagement and one on one evaluations conducted remotely, patients and clinicians work together to establish a personalized therapy regimen. In the wake of COVID-19, regulations restricting this kind of telehealth service have relaxed in the US and many parts of the world, which means expanded access to care. Given that services are delivered remotely, for many individuals it makes access much easier and increases likelihood of treatment seeking.

2. Getting Mental Health into the Workplace. Last week, I shared the toolkit that we launched with Axa Asia to support employee mental health during COVID-19 and beyond. Unmind, founded by Nick Taylor in 2016, is an example of a tech startup that is focusing on increasing mental health supports in the workplace. Unmind is primarily designed to protect and promote employee mental health and wellbeing rather than deliver clinical services. Mood diaries, one of its self-assessment tools, aims to provide useful and actionable insights and recommendations for self-care. Overall employee data is de-identified and aggregated to inform leadership on broad based strategies that they can pursue to better serve their entire workforce. Increasing mental health awareness and integrating mental health supports in the workplace are the way of the future as we recognize the many ways that mental health has an impact on the workplace, including productivity, retention, and recruitment.

3. Prescription Digital Therapeutics to Enhance Outcomes. Taking technology interventions to another level, Pear Therapeutics, founded by Corey McCann in 2013, is developing prescription digital therapeutics (PDTs) to treat mental disorders like addiction, PTSD, and depression. The digital intervention is developed following procedures and regulations that are consistent with those required for the development of a prescription medication. After demonstrating safety and efficacy, the digital therapeutic receives FDA approval and is used by physician prescription. One of their products, for example, is reSet. A 90-day PDT for Substance Use Disorder, reSet provides cognitive behavioral therapy for patients 18 years of age and older who are currently enrolled in outpatient treatment under the supervision of a clinician. Such efforts have the potential to increase an individual’s commitment to care and extend what any individual clinician can deliver in person, thereby supporting treatment engagement and improving outcomes.

4. Focusing on Men’s Mental Health. Much has been written about toxic masculinity and gender differences in talking about emotions. Men in tech are developing innovative and engaging programs to challenge some of these gender norms that hinder men’s mental health. On example is Evryman, which is a membership program that creates space for men to share emotional and mental health challenges. Founded by Dan Doty, Lucas Krump, Sascha Lewis, and Owen Marcus, this startup focuses on building communities of men who are interested in developing their social and emotional intelligence. With structured curricula and drop-in groups, members learn specific skills to enhance their ability to have difficult conversations, make critical choices, and build fulfilling friendships and intimate relationships.

5. Investing in Mental Health Startups. Tech startups require investment capital, and funds are growing to support this work. Take for example, Stephen Hays, founder of What if Ventures. After decades of personal experience struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction, Stephen is now in recovery and is dedicating his energy to investing in mental health tech startups. VC funds like What If Ventures supply not only critical financial resources for innovation but also ask questions that shake up the status quo and challenge assumptions about mental health and delivery of mental health care in ways that I hope will continue to catalyze change and improve mental health supports and services for all.

With coronavirus, Juneteenth, and two landmark Supreme Court cases decided this week, I alternately feel overwhelmed by the challenges and uncertainty of our times and invigorated and inspired by the indomitable human spirit. In the midst of it all, never has it been more important to focus on mental health. In recognition of Men’s Mental Health Month and Father’s Day, this Five on Friday celebrates the many men who are pioneering efforts to improve mental health and who are working towards a world where mental health is better understood and supported. Happy Father’s Day!

Picture of Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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