How My Mental Health Crisis Inspired a Business That’s Helping Thousands of College Students

My struggles with mental health started when I was in college. I was living on my own for the very first time and experiencing difficulties figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be. At the start of my senior year, feelings of anxiety and depression became crippling, preventing me from doing things like hanging out with my friends and going to parties. Rather than putting on a fake smile and pretending that everything was fine, I chose to self-isolate, which only made me more depressed. 

Feelings of loneliness and hopelessness overwhelmed me as I began to question my identity and self-worth. I started to question my will to live. Although I did not wish to die, the pain of living with these feelings was taking a significant toll, and I did not know what to do. 

I know what you’re thinking– why didn’t I ask for help? And yes, I knew there was a counseling center on campus. But I was too scared and ashamed by the idea that other students would find out that I was struggling, not to mention telling a stranger about my deepest, darkest thoughts. Even the thought of calling to make an appointment felt like an insurmountable challenge. That is, until I hit rock bottom and knew I had no choice but to push fear and stigma aside and ask for help.  

This decision was a turning point in my life. Finally, I was able to share my thoughts, feelings and worries with an educated, experienced and licensed therapist and learn how to manage my mental health issues instead of being controlled by them. I was also able to come out to myself as gay, something I had long repressed, and began learning to love myself for the person I was.  

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remember the mental health crisis I faced and the hopelessness I felt before accessing counseling and getting the help I needed. It was this experience that made me realize how many other students must be facing these same obstacles to getting the help they need when they need it the most. I knew there had to be a better alternative, and the idea of bringing therapy online seemed like the most compelling way to provide greater confidentiality and accessibility to students when seeking support. It’s the alternative I wish I had myself, and one that would have allowed me to get the help I needed sooner. 

I founded BetterMynd in 2017 with the belief that every college student struggling with mental health issues deserves access to quality and timely professional support. Seven years and a pandemic later, my vision remains the same as it was then. No student should be left to struggle with their mental health issues on their own. Therapy must be accessible, affordable, and stigma-free for any college student who needs it, without exception. 

I am immensely proud of our contributions to the mental health epidemic on college campuses. BetterMynd works by supplementing and expanding on-campus mental health resources by providing free and highly personalized 50-minute online therapy to students to meet their unique needs. In addition to 50-minute sessions, students can receive further support in our Wellbeing Workshops, 24/7 On-Demand Crisis & Support Line, and Psychiatry and Medication Management. Understanding that college students are facing a broad range and complexity of mental health concerns, our model of care is uniquely aligned with individualized student needs. 

Ultimately, the greatest measure of our success as a company is reflected in the impact we have on the mental health and well-being of the students utilizing our services. Today, we are working with over 100 colleges and universities in 30 different states and have grown our campus partnerships by 66% over the past year. Each month, nearly 2,000 50-minute therapy sessions are conducted on our platform, supporting hundreds of college students across the country. When asking these students to provide feedback about their overall BetterMynd experience and their therapist, they rate both greater than 9 out of 10 on average. 

In the last year alone, we have also worked hard to expand the diversity and capabilities of our counselor network, which is composed of over 400 licensed and insured mental health clinicians. This includes a 30% increase in the number of BIPOC counselors and a 15% increase in the number of multilingual counselors to provide more inclusive mental health care to students. 

Because of my own struggles with mental health as a college student, I feel deeply connected to our mission in a way that impacts the way I think about and lead our business each day. I believe that every single student using our service deserves an exceptional online therapy experience and quality of care. This mindset means putting the students and our mission first, even if that may not always be the most profitable business decision. But it is by being highly focused on the quality of our service and being truly mission-first that I believe will allow us to most effectively scale our business while truly impacting the lives of more college students.  

I think about the hundreds of thousands of college students today who are struggling like I was, and I think about the opportunity to keep one more student enrolled, to change the trajectory of their life for the better, or maybe even help to save their life. This is what BetterMynd is all about. 

Cody Semrau, CEO & Founder, BetterMynd

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