by Naveen Kassamali, LMFT
Covid 19 has caused many shifts in our lives, including how we approach education in Higher Ed and K-12 settings. Virtual learning and hybrid models, among other measures, have been implemented to keep students and teachers safe.
The rapid shift in learning models is one of the factors that's impacted students’ mental health this year. Students have also experienced an increase of anxiety due to the fear of getting sick, fear of schools shutting down, isolation, and the recurring stress of grades and friendships. These stressors are likely to cause a significant effect in the mental health of this generation for years to come.
Although anxiety levels have increased, the stigma of receiving mental health treatment still exists. Studies show that in early adolescence, teens may develop negative attitudes about mental health and decreased willingness to use traditional mental health services (counseling, therapy). Researchers identified stigma and lack of understanding about mental health as primary barriers that keep teens and young adults from engaging in help-seeking. Low staffing at some school counseling centers is an additional barrier for students seeking mental health treatment.
Digital programs present a compelling solution, serving as a stepping stone for students who are facing mental health challenges but are not ready to seek support from school counselors. The Neolth app is a resource created specifically for students. Beyond offering personalized, on-demand relaxation practices and health tracking over time, Neolth recently released a Community Module as part of their app. The module includes video series from clinicians that educate students about mental health; vlogs from students discussing their own mental health to break down stigma; and live streamed community events to connect students from across the country.
Neolth’s initiative to educate and reduce stigma through open dialog encourages students who are suffering silently to reach out for help. This is the reason that Hadlie Winslow, a student from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, joined the Neolth team as a Content Creator for their Student Stories, “I have always believed in the importance of student mental health, but such beliefs were strengthened when I lost my boyfriend of three years to suicide…he was also a student, but dealt with depression privately. [with Neolth] I want to clear any signs of embarrassment with students so that they can feel open enough to share about their struggles.”
The company's Student Advisory Board sparked their initiative to reduce stigma through peer storytelling. Neolth went live with their first version of the Community Module in Fall 2020 and an updated version in May 2021. The feedback from students and counselors after this launch has been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s so inspiring and the messages in that [Student Stories] video are extremely powerful. I really think the stories+community section [on Neolth] will be an integral part of reducing stigma, along with educating and encouraging individuals to really tune in with their own mental health. I’m genuinely so grateful to be part of such a meaningful community—it’s incredible to see students share their stories and create open dialogue around such a prevalent issue during this time.” Selah Mokatish, junior at California State University, Long Beach.
Neolth’s mission is to increase access to stress and mental health support for teens and young adults. Neolth’s CEO Dr. Katherine Grill is an advocate for students and says, “A big part of breaking down stigma with youth is allowing them to see what's happening with peers in their community, what others are dealing with as far as their lived experiences, and what they did to get help. I’m excited about the release of our Community Module and the impact that it will have on students throughout the country.”
Neolth’s self-guided platform helps students gain access to mental health support. While it’s not a replacement for therapy, the program helps students with stress management and stigma reduction. The program is built by health professionals and educators, in partnership with students. You can learn more about how Neolth can be a resource for your students, counselors and administrators at neolth.com.
About the Author: Naveen Kassamali is a psychotherapist licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Her skill set includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), motivational interviewing (MI), health psychology, exposure therapy and addiction psychotherapy. She also provides ketamine-assisted psychotherapy in conjunction with a medical team.
Naveen earned her undergraduate degree in sociology at UC Davis and her masters in counseling psychology at Notre Dame de Namur University. Her masters thesis focused on the impact of microaggressions on multicultural populations. She is a Psychotherapist at My Doctor Medical Group and Outreach and Education Specialist at Neolth. Prior to these roles, Naveen worked in medical settings on integrated medical-behavioral teams, including Fremont Hospital, California Pacific Medical Center and Stanford Hospital.