Khosla-backed Marble, built by former Headway founders, offers affordable group therapy for teens | TechCrunch

Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are increasing among American teenagers.

A recent report Center for Disease Control found that nearly one in three girls has seriously considered suicide, and a significant number, 13%, have actually attempted it.

Psychologists have several theories about the causes of mental health crises in adolescents.

Some blame the increased use of smartphones and social networkswhile others believe that isolation during the pandemic has played a major role.

While the main drivers of adolescent psychological difficulties are not well understood, the biggest challenge now is finding ways to solve the growing problem, given the shortage of mental health professionals across the country.

Jake Sussman, who was one of four co-founders of a Headway unicorn-sized mental health networkbelieves his new venture can help address the deepening crisis by offering online group therapy for children in grades five through 12.

After leaving Headway two years ago, Sussman decided to try something completely different. He became a fifth-grade English teacher at a charter school in Brooklyn. That experience not only gave her the opportunity to teach children how to write essays, but it also gave her a front-row seat to explain why mental health care for children isn’t working today.

Sussman’s school had a counselor, but despite that person’s best efforts, they often couldn’t get students timely help, he said.

“[Counselors] They are not doctors. They have a huge number of cases,” Sussman said. “The best thing they can do is give families physical PDFs from clinics that have long waiting lists.”

She shared the story of Jamelia, an orphan who became depressed after her best friend left school. Because Jamelia was covered by Medicaid, she had to wait three months to see a therapist.

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Sussman realized that one way to solve the shortage of mental health professionals is to offer help in a group setting.

“Group care has been around for a long time,” Sussman said. “They have been rigorously studied. And they work.”

While studies found that group therapy is as effective as individual therapyMental health professionals do not typically offer this type of treatment.

Although therapists in private practice can make more money doing group sessions, group treatment is not popular among behavioral health providers because they present a huge administrative challenge, according to Sussman. “You are not going to find 10 children, coordinate 10 schedules and check 10 insurances. “It’s too much work.”

Due to logistics, online group therapy may also be more effective than in-person treatment, according to Sussman.

“If you have two groups, and one is just 17-year-old girls who have anxiety and another is 17-year-old girls who have anxiety and are Hispanic, and identify as LGBTQ, that second group, all things being equal, “is going to be much, much more effective because it is more specific,” Sussman said. “It would be practically impossible to complete the second group personally. How are you going to find 10 of those people who meet those criteria within a commutable radius of the group’s location?

Marble, which Sussman founded late last year with fellow Headway co-founder Dan Ross, says it can solve the logistics of organizing group treatment while helping many more students without sacrificing quality of care. On Friday, the startup comes out of stealth and announces that it has raised $5 million in seed funding from Khosla Ventures, Town Hall Ventures, IA Ventures, and with participation from Daybreak Ventures and Lorimer Ventures.

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Sussman said Marble’s main competitors are school-focused teletherapy startups. Hazelnut color, Sunrise and Cart-wheel, who partner directly with school districts. “Schools have budgets available for student mental health, but these budgets are fickle and quite small,” Sussman said, adding that schools can pay for up to six private therapy sessions, but that is not enough time to treat the students.

Marble’s approach is different. The company partners with school counselors who have the authority to make referrals, Sussman said.

Instead of charging school districts for Marble’s services, the company works with insurance, including Medicaid.

Sussman explained that Marble’s approach is financially viable because Medicaid will pay at least $20 per child for a group session. “With 10 kids in a group, we can make $200 for that hour, which means we can pay the therapist a competitive rate and still have enough money to build the business,” Sussman said.

Marble tested this approach with a school in New York City and intends to build a relationship with hundreds of counselors across New York State over the next school year. “Counselors see the magic of not having wait lists,” Sussman said. “They realize it’s much better than what they’re currently using.”

While the company is starting its services in New York, it plans to expand to other states.

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