Introducing Daybreak, a new type of online counseling designed for teens
Updated: Mar 17
The Seeds of Our Mission
In October of 2018, I received a call that changed everything: my little brother was in the hospital after attempting to take his own life. His hospitalization was the culmination of a 10 year struggle with depression that had begun at the age of 12. The following days and weeks were a blur, flying home to be with my brother and my parents, and just being there for them in the small ways I could.
Over the next few months as my brother recovered, I unpacked the experience to try to make sense of it. Yes, my younger brother struggled with mood swings and then depression throughout high school. And yes, he had never found consistent care. But it wasn't for lack of trying. He and my parents had spent hundreds of hours trying to find a therapist, with seemingly simple requirements. They just wanted a therapist that was affordable, geographically accessible, didn't have a waitlist, and - this isn’t rocket science - that my brother could relate to. What they found instead: $200-300 sessions, offices 1-2 hours drive away, 8 week wait lists for appointments, and therapists who couldn't hold a conversation with a teen of color even on their best days.
The Barriers We Need to Address
Ultimately, my family's experience spoke to the same barriers that impact millions of other families of teens in the United States with mental health needs today. Our adolescent mental health system has 3 key barriers that stop our teens from receiving the care they need:
Difficult to Access: the adolescent mental healthcare system is extremely inaccessible. Understanding symptoms, available providers, and insurance is nearly impossible even for an expert, let alone a busy and stressed parent. Wait lists for teen therapists can average 8 weeks in urban environments and the problem is magnified in rural areas. And once you get off a waitlist, your weekly appointment may be 1-2 hours away.
Inconsistent Quality: 90% of youth who finally see a provider do not receive evidence-based care for teens(1). In other words, they receive a treatment that we don’t know will be effective. In addition, the majority of mental health clinicians focus on adults and can find it difficult to relate with teens, who in turn get less out of the experience and are more likely to drop out of care.
Expensive: due to the shortage of providers focused on adolescents, the cost for therapy sessions usually exceeds $200 per hour, and in many instances can go up to $400 per hour. Because most behavioral health care is out-of-network, this can result in an annual $20K+ out of pocket cost to see a specialist.
The Care Gap is Reaching Crisis Levels
This leads to a mind-blowing stat: on average 11 years pass between symptom onset and treatment(2). Even worse, those that get care after 11 years are actually the lucky ones! 80% of teens never make it through these barriers, and their anxiety or depression goes untreated(3).
This isn't a niche problem. 1 in 5 teens struggle with a diagnosable mental health condition, but estimates suggest that up to 1 in 3 youth actually struggle with anxiety(4)(5). That means the odds are greater than 50% that if you are the average parent raising a family in America with 2 kids, one of your children will struggle with a mental health condition. Let me repeat that: it is more likely than not that one of your children will struggle with a mental health issue during their teens.
Looking at the national picture, this means that there are 7 million teens in the United States with a mental health condition, and the number is growing fast. Rates of depression have increased 50% in the last decade, and rates of anxiety have increased 30% with no end in sight(6)(7). And yet, there is an extreme shortage of high quality mental healthcare in this country and an even worse shortage of care for young people. This is resulting in in deteriorating academic performance, increased crime and substance abuse rates, and worst of all: teen suicide rates that are at an all-time high. Adolescent mental health is an epidemic, and one that is only worsening with increased need during the current climate.
A Dramatic Shift is on the Horizon
The good news is that at this moment in time for the first time ever, we are seeing huge shifts that will enable us to close this care gap for our young people.
First, as a society our readiness for widespread online mental healthcare has arrived overnight. Telemedicine has gone from 10-15% of doctor visits, to 90% of doctor visits. People love the ease and convenience it affords them, and realize they can often actually get better care online.
Second, new regulations are helping the insurance industry to support both increased mental health benefits, and reimbursement for online care. This will unlock mental health care for a huge portion of Americans who previously were either unable to afford therapy, or were not geographically close enough to get it. Recent events have made virtually-delivered mental health care a reality overnight, and we are ready to support Americans through the transition.
Introducing Daybreak Health
Daybreak’s mission is to build mental fitness in young people by creating universal access to effective mental health care. We provide immediate online mental health support and high-quality counseling for teens and their families.
Our founding team has 3 decades of combined experience at the intersection of technology and healthcare. We've been working to create the digital health transition for the last decade, and we’ve fine-tuned how to use digital tools to help clinicians deliver incredible care online. Our Clinical team is led by Dr. Allyson Knight, an adolescent psychologist who did her post-doc at UCSF's Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health unit and has since dedicated her career to building clinical programs for adolescents.
We've reimagined the model from the ground up. What we do differently:
Immediate and easy: parents and teens can get support within minutes from one of our Guides, and a next-day appointment with a therapist. We make finding the right therapist easy and keep parents in the loop at every step. Mental health support is in the palm of your hand. No more waitlists, 2 hour drives, or uncomfortable couches.
Quality guaranteed: our holistic clinical services are designed from the ground up for parents and teens. We leverage the latest clinical science, and are backed by the experts at Stanford and UCSF. All of our therapists focus specifically on teens and their families. No more rolling the dice on the quality of your care.
Affordable: our all-inclusive membership is $99/week, less than half the cost of traditional therapy. This includes video sessions, therapist text messaging, and group sessions. No more $200-300 sessions.
We partner with high schools and pediatric groups across California to support high-need middle and high school age teens, in addition to serving parents and teens directly with our services. We have received investment from Maven (the first investors in Zoom, and committed to bringing healthcare online), Telosity (the leading investment firm focused on adolescent mental health), and YCombinator (the world's leading accelerator for startups). Their investment will help us expand our services to reach even more teens and families in California.
A New Day
As we near the 2-year anniversary of my brother's crisis, I feel fortunate that he continues on his path towards mental wellbeing. But if there is one thing I've learned through his journey, it’s this: mental wellbeing, just like physical health, is something that needs continuous love and attention. Every single one of us deserves dedicated mental health support, for anything from stress to a diagnosed mental health condition. At Daybreak we are here to provide that support.