Ginger expands mental health app to teens

phone, text, texting, cell phone, smartphone

phone, text, texting, cell phone, smartphone

Investment in mental health tools has soared, as more employers have sought to add support systems during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, more are offering benefits that extend to the rest of the family.

Ginger, a startup that offers app-based mental health services, is rolling out a new set of features for teens ages 13-17. It plans to offer text-based coaching and self-guided content, as well as tele-therapy and psychiatry visits.

The San Francisco-based startup was founded in 2010, and has raised more than $200 million to date. It’s drummed up coverage from several large employers, and recently struck a deal with Cigna to offer its coaching services as a covered benefit. 

Ginger plans to offer the program to some of its clients starting next month, and to its broader membership in 2022.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about a fifth of youth have a mental health condition. But the majority don’t receive treatment, and finding a specialist that also works with kids or teens can be a challenge.

A handful of services have cropped up offering virtual mental health services for youth. For example, Brightline, a startup offering behavioral health services for kids ages 1-18, is charting plans to expand across the U.S. after raising a recent funding round.

Working with younger patients brings some unique considerations, such as striking a balance between supporting parents and guardians in their care, while also giving them privacy. Ginger said a child’s communication with their care team is confidential unless a safety issue arises, such as self-harm or substance use. But parents also are asked to join in the first session and receive app-based updates on their child’s progress.

App-based mental healthcare also brings its own privacy considerations. According to Ginger’s privacy policy for its adult patients, it may use third-party services to process payments or operate the app, but it enters into confidential agreements with these providers.

The company also collects personal information people provide to coaches, such as their personal goals or survey responses, which it says it uses to optimize its coaching services.

Photo credit: diego_cervo, Getty Images