Mayor Adams Celebrates Early Success Of Free Tele-Mental Health Service For NYC Teens

May 23, 2024

Six months after launching “NYC Teenspace ” — a free tele-mental health service available to all New York City teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 years old.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner (DOHMH) Dr. Ashwin Vasan today updated New Yorkers on the program’s progress, announcing that more than 6,800 teenagers have already signed up for the service. Early data shows that 65 percent of users reported improvement in their mental health and provides valuable insight into teenagers’ reasons for seeking help. Additionally, underserved neighborhoods, including Brownsville and East New York, led the city in signups while 80 percent of users identified as Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), bi-racial, or Native American. NYC Teenspace — created in partnership with online therapy platform Talkspace — allows New York City teenagers to connect with a licensed therapist through phone, video, and text on any mobile device completely free-of-charge.

“With teenage anxiety on the rise, we made clear that New York City would get our young people the help they need and provide teenagers with free tele-mental health services. Six months later, the data shows our efforts are paying off, and we’ve already helped more than 6,800 teenagers get the mental health care they need through ‘NYC Teenspace,’” said Mayor Adams. “We’ve brought therapy and mental health resources to thousands of New York City teenagers, but we didn’t stop there. We filed a lawsuit to hold the companies that own five social media platforms accountable for their harmful behavior and made the right investments to put nearly 500 social workers and psychologists in our schools. While this progress is encouraging, we will keep working to meet every teenager where they are and make sure that all New Yorkers are cared for and supported.”

“The pandemic was tough on us all related to our mental health, but especially so for our young people. We’ve seen higher rates of anxiety and depression among our young people, made especially difficult by the challenges of growing up in a social media world,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “‘NYC Teenspace’ offers a critical tool to support young people, ages 13 to 17, on their smartphones via talk, text, or video, chat so they can engage in ways that work for them. In the first six months of this initiative, nearly 7,000 young people have signed up and four out of five users are from Black and Brown communities, which we know were some of the hardest hit during the pandemic. This initiative is just one piece of our broader family and youth mental health strategy.”

“We view the early results of ‘NYC Teenspace’ with pride, excitement, and humility,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan. “Pride, because we’ve stepped up to the challenge of our youth mental health crisis with innovative tools that teens are actually using and getting the support they need. Excitement, because of the potential to serve many more teens in need. We also look at this with humility, because we are just at the beginning of this journey in New York City, and we still have much to improve on and to learn, most importantly from young people themselves. But one thing is clear, we have torn down some obstacles to care, opened the door to mental health support using a modern approach, and teens are choosing to walk through. We’re stepping up to the challenge of our youth mental health crisis with whatever it takes, because we know we can’t afford to wait, and the cost of inaction is too high.”

“Student safety and well-being, including emotional well-being, remains a top priority for New York City Public Schools. ‘NYC Teenspace’ has positively impacted so many of our children and highlights how important accessible services like this are for our community,” said New York City Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks. “In addition to the robust set of mental health supports already available to our students, we remain committed to working with our agency partners at DOHMH to ensure our young people are fully supported and set up for long-term success, inside and outside of our classrooms.”

“The success of ‘NYC Teenspace’ mirrors what Mayor Adams and I heard at youth town halls again and again — that mental health is one of the top two concerns of our city’s young people,” said New York City Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Keith Howard. “Teens living in communities with high rates of violence and trauma need free, accessible mental health services, and the early numbers show we are reaching those young New Yorkers and helping them on the road to healing.”

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“I am deeply encouraged by the early success of ‘NYC Teenspace.’ This initiative demonstrates our city’s dedication to prioritizing the mental well-being of our young people. With over 6,800 teenagers already signed up for this service, and a significant majority reporting positive improvements in their mental health, it underscores the urgent necessity for such resources,” said Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health Executive Director Eva Wong. “I am particularly heartened to see the strong uptake in low-resourced neighborhoods and among diverse racial and ethnic groups. This tells us that we are reaching those who may have previously faced barriers to accessing mental health services.”

NYC Teenspace provides young people with valuable resources to bolster mental health, including a coping skills toolkit, and access to a licensed therapist by phone, video calls, or messaging sessions, giving teenagers control over how they engage. The virtual setting takes place on a secure, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act- (HIPAA) compliant platform and is designed to reduce barriers to care.

The city and Talkspace designed the service with direct input from New York City teenagers, convening focus groups to best understand their mental health needs and to build a platform that is as useful and responsive as possible to those using the platform. By leveraging telehealth tools, this approach also reduces physical and financial burdens for young people.

Early results show that between the program’s November 15, 2023 launch and April 1, 2024:

  • 6,800 teenagers signed up for NYC Teenspace.
  • Nearly 60 percent of NYC Teenspace users identified as Black or Hispanic.
  • Eighty percent of users identified as Black, Hispanic, AAPI, bi-racial, or Native American.
  • Neighborhoods that led the city in signups are:
    • 11212 – Brownsville (Brooklyn)
    • 11208 – East New York (Brooklyn)
    • 11236 – Canarsie (Brooklyn)
    • 10456 – Morrisania (Bronx)10467 – Norwood (Bronx)
  • Teenage girls were more likely to seek help. Almost 70 percent of users identified as female, compared to roughly 23 percent who identified as male.
  • More than half exclusively engaged with their therapist via messaging.
  • Early results showed 65 percent of users already reported an improvement, with this group growing steadily.

The most frequently cited reasons teenagers gave for using the platform included: feeling down or depressed, improving relationships (which was first among girls), becoming their best self, anxiety (which was first among boys), and difficulties at home or school. When it came to engaging in therapy, more than 42 percent of users utilized both live video sessions and messaging. Four percent of users engaged in live video sessions only, while 54 percent exclusively used messaging.

DOHMH and Talkspace are actively working with partners across government and on the ground to promote NYC Teenspace. Representatives have connected with members of the school community and with partner agencies that work with young people outside of school settings.

NYC Teenspace comes at a critical moment for teenage mental health. According to DOHMH’s data from 2019, 36 percent of New York City high schoolers reported feeling so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks during the past 12 months that they stopped doing their usual activities; that figure rose to 38 percent in 2021. Latino and Black students were significantly more likely than white students to report feeling sad or hopeless.

The launch and early success of NYC Teenspace delivers on a key commitment from Mayor Adams’ “Care, Community, Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City,” released in March 2023. Mayor Adams has made mental health — including youth mental health — a key focus of his administration. In addition to his mental health plan and the launch of NYC Teenspace, the Adams administration has filed a lawsuit to hold the owners of five social media platforms — TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube — accountable for helping to fuel the nationwide youth mental health crisis and force tech giants to change their behavior.

Alongside the Adams administration’s focus on mental health, Mayor Adams also launched “HealthyNYC,” an ambitious plan to extend the average lifespan of all New Yorkers. HealthyNYC addresses the greatest drivers of premature death and sets bold targets to extend the average life expectancy of New Yorkers to 83 years by 2030, with gains across racial and ethnic groups. HealthyNYC aims to accomplish this by expanding access to culturally responsive mental health care and social support services, including early intervention for communities of color and LGBTQIA+ youth, and addressing the impact of social media on youth mental health and suicidal ideation to reduce suicide deaths.

“We are transforming New York City into a beacon of hope for the mental health of our nation. At a time when suicide among our teenagers has risen by 60 percent in the past decade, it is time for cutting edge solutions,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “That is why six months ago, we launched ‘NYC Teenspace,’ an innovative program making free mental health providers accessible to our teens with just the touch of a button. In only six months, we have served 6,800 teenage New Yorkers, giving them the essential support they need to thrive. The numbers speak for themselves: 64 percent of Teenspace users reported improvement in their mental health, and 80 percent came from underserved communities. I will continue to partner with Mayor Adams and Commissioner Vasan so that all New Yorkers have access to low-cost, innovative, quality mental healthcare.”

“… ensuring they have the mental health support they need to thrive …”

“‘NYC Teenspace’ is a crucial step in protecting the well-being of our young New Yorkers and ensuring they have the mental health support they need to thrive,” said New York City Councilmember Lynn Schulman, chair, Health Committee. “With thousands of teenagers signing up in just the first few months, this program is already making a significant impact on the lives of our city’s youth. I applaud the early success of this pioneering initiative.”

“We are excited about the first few months’ results, as they indicate that we are reaching teens where they are, on their phones, and delivering health care to communities that have been traditionally hard to reach,” said Jon Cohen, M.D., CEO, Talkspace. “The early data suggest that the majority of teens engaged on the platform are already demonstrating clinical improvement. In addition, we are particularly proud that we have successfully intervened on multiple occasions to assist teens in navigating difficult situations to avoid a potentially adverse outcome.”

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