New York City teens now have access to free online therapy through a recently launched program, according to a report inChalkbeat New York.
City teens, ages 13-17, can text, call or video chat with licensed therapists through the online platform Talkspace without providing payment, insurance information, or referrals, officials said.
The teen telehealth initiative, which Mayor Eric Adams has billed as the largest of its kind in the country, was months in the making. The idea was first raised as part of the city’s blueprint for addressing a surge in mental health challenges since the pandemic started.
Among the sobering statistics officials pointed to: The share of city students who reported suicidal ideation jumped to nearly 16% from about 12% over the past decade. About 9% of city high school students reported they attempted suicide during 2021, according to a Health Department survey.
The contract with Talkspace will cost the city an estimated $26 million.
Teens can register for the program, called NYC Teenspace. The sign-up page asks students for a birthday and address before going through a series of questions about their current mental health. Parental consent is required, according to the platform’s creators.
Beside talking with licensed therapists by text, phone or video chat, students can also take self-guided courses. Texting is unlimited, but live sessions are limited to once a month, according to the company. A Health Department spokesperson said kids will see the same therapist for each session.
For kids in acute crisis, Teenspace providers will refer them to psychiatric care or an in–person counselor, officials said.
The Health Department didn’t provide a specific goal for how many students the agency hopes will participate. “We aim to provide services to as many teens as possible across the city,” a spokesperson said.
Officials from the health and education departments said schools will receive materials to help publicize the initiative.
Chalkbeat New York