Top 8 Best Mental Health Apps and Startups Worth Checking Out
Discover the most impressive U.S.-based mental health apps and startups that are here to make a real difference. And good business too.
May 4, 2022 | 10 min read
The Covid-19 pandemic gave the market of mental health apps a huge boost as more and more users demanded access to such services. With an estimated 20,000 mental health apps available in the app stores, it seems that therapeutic techniques are more accessible, portable, and cost-effective than ever.
According to ORCHA, app searches for mental health issues rose dramatically - depression by 156%, OCD by 422%, and stress by 113%. Those reaching out for digital support also looked for relaxation apps - a smashing 437% increase! - and mindfulness apps (noting a 2483% increase!).
But it takes the right app to win on the market.
How do you get there?
Before we move on to the list of top mental health apps on the market today, let’s take a closer look at how mental health problems impact the IT industry today and whether the proliferation of such apps will make traditional therapy obsolete.
This will help you to understand the context better and lead you to create a truly unique app.
In a recent survey, almost half of Americans said that the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health. Since in-person therapy was paused during shelter-in-place restrictions, people turned to their smartphones: first-time downloads of the top 20 mental health apps hit a smashing 4 million in April 2020, up 29% from January.
Investors are flocking into the growing therapeutic app market. So far, only Calm managed to hit a valuation north of $1 billion, but other startups are getting close. In Q1 2021, mental health startups raised a record $576 million, 60% more than any previous quarter!
Talkspace said that the number of new users nearly doubled between mid-March and May 2020 against the same period in 2019. Applications from therapists to join the platform rose by over 50%.
As you can see, the combination of HealthTech innovations and the powerful social trend of self-care is a solid business direction. Mental health is no longer taboo and the niche offers a lot of potential for startups.
But first, it’s worth answering this question:
The growth of this sector doesn’t mean that in-person (or group) therapy sessions are going to lose their significance. On the contrary, mental health apps can boost the therapeutic effect of traditional approaches - and professionals in this industry certainly recognize their value.
The power of mental health apps lies in access. They can potentially reach many people who would otherwise not receive any help by removing the barriers to treatment.
In the U.S., regulators are preparing guidelines for mental health apps. The American Psychiatric Association created an app rating system to help psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychotherapists assess the efficacy of mobile and online mental health apps.
Even though mental health apps aren’t going to become a full alternative to psychology and therapy - they might be a good solution for users who can’t afford professional sessions. They’re reasonably priced (or free) and offer rich resources that make therapeutic techniques more accessible, portable, and cost-effective.
There are plenty of apps created by or with professionals that incorporate proven methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), and address issues from depression and eating disorder recovery to PTSD and OCD. They might also help with drugs or alcohol abuse through Mood Tracking Journals (emotion journals) or sobriety counter apps.
Now let's move to the core of our article and list the 8 most impressive U.S.-based mental health apps and startups that are here to make a real difference.
And good business too. ;-)
Location: Santa Monica, California
Funding: $215.9 million
Brand claim: “Making it our mission to improve the health & happiness of the world!”
Headspace teaches mindfulness and meditation by giving users access to hundreds of meditations to deal with stress, anxiety, and focus. Today, the app reaches over 65 million users across 190 countries.
Headspace operates a B2B business called Headspace for Work that delivers mindfulness products to more than 700 companies all over the world, from Starbucks and GE to Hyatt and Unilever - not to mention government entities like New York State and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). What a way to push the practice of meditation forward!
Location: New York, NY
Funding: $118.7 million
Brand claim: “Healing all people. One person at a time.”
Happify takes advantage of gamification to serve a purpose via different tracks coached by trained professionals. Users choose a track and then play games and activities to progress, focusing on their individualized goals. Happify diversified its business by working with employers, health plans, pharma companies, and individual users.
Still, many options are locked for users who don’t purchase the premium plan - and I’m worried that Happify is more expensive than many other mental health apps on the market. Not to mention that challenges and deadlines can actually make the process more stressful!
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Funding: $2 million
Brand claim: “Improving mental health through objective measurement and personalized intervention.”
Ksana Health was created by Professor Nicholas Allen, a clinical psychologist and head of the Center for Digital Mental Health at the University of Oregon. The app focuses on gathering mental health data and transferring it from users to healthcare practitioners. It's a mobile therapy app that includes a helpful dashboard of patient information. The app sends two questions to users every day and then combines their behaviors and question responses to offer personal insights about their habits and mental health.
The app got financial backing from Mind Capital, the mental health VC part of Christian Angermayer, and Apeiron Investment Group. We are proud to help Ksana Health on its way with frontend development and UX/UI design.
Build your modern Web App with top React & Node.js engineers
Location: New York. NY
Funding: $113.7 million
Brand claim: “Feeling better starts with a single message.”
Using Talkspace, you can easily connect virtually with a licensed therapist. All it takes is a weekly subscription - users pay $49 per week and, in exchange, get private access to a therapist via text, audio, or video chat - even daily or multiple times per day!
This is one of the best models of a successful subscription payment among mental health apps. Access to a real therapist 24/7 is a rare feature on the market. No wonder Talkspace scored celebrity endorsements from Demi Lovato and Michael Phelps.
Still, it’s on the expensive side and might not be the best approach for more severe mental health issues. Also, users report the therapist evaluation surveys to be aggravating.
Location: Boston, MA
Funding: $8.1 million
Brand claim: “Meditation for a happier, healthier you.”
Created by ABC News' Dan Harris, this winner among mental health apps offers 500+ guided meditations, videos, talks, and a Coronavirus Sanity Guide with free resources including weekly podcasts and a daily “live sanity break.”
The smart thing about this app is that it delivers bite-sized, inspirational stories users can listen to on the go - and adds new content every week to keep its users onboard. Who could have guessed that it would all start with part memoir, part how-to become 10% Happier that landed itself #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The app uses the membership model for monetization, with a free 7-day trial and $99/year that unlocks all functionalities.
Location: San Francisco, California
Funding: $218 million
Valuation: $1+ billion
Brand claim: “Find your calm.”
So far, the only unicorn startup in the club, Calm gained traction after Apple named it the 2017 iPhone App of the Year. The app offers a selection of guided meditations, sleep stories, relaxing music, stretching exercises, and breathing programs.
Calm proved that it’s worth experimenting with different approaches to marketing strategy. Believe it or not, but the app sponsored CNN’s live coverage of the U.S. 2020 presidential election. Every time the station reported a key race alert, it displayed the Calm ad alongside. This helped Calm move up 20 ranks during the first day of coverage and score #1 in the health and fitness category.
Location: New York, NY
Funding: $8.3 million
Brand claim: “Calm your anxiety.”
Shine stands out among mental health apps because of its customer-centric approach. It leverages personalization to an unprecedented level and, as a result, creates a space unique to each user. Addressing BIPOC mental health, Shine addresses users by their chosen name, offers personalized support communities, and provides 800+ community-created meditation courses, tailored recommendations, and customized playlists.
Personalizing products like this is a sure-fire way to deliver something that brings value to each user, making them feel special and increasing their long-term loyalty.
Location: San Francisco, California
Brand claim: “You deserve to be happy.”
One of the leading teletherapy platforms globally, BetterHelp connects users with thousands of therapists via video, phone, and chat. It boasts more than 1 million Android downloads and features the industry’s largest pool of therapists.
Here’s what BetterHelp does differently: during the signup process, the app’s matching system pairs users with therapists who specialize in the most relevant areas for them. Finding a mental health professional is way easier and the help users get is tailored to their individual needs.
While the mental health market is competitive, it also provides a lot of room for growth. In the United States, users have spent 30% more hours on health since the start of 2020 than the year before. While in 2020, the global mental health market size was valued at $383.31, by 2030, it’s estimated to reach an impressive $537.97 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 3.5%.
When it comes to mental health apps, downloads are great but what matters most is having users return to you on a daily basis. The apps I listed above all found interesting ways to succeed by attracting, engaging, and retaining users.
Personalization, customization, and building a space where users feel comfortable - treat all these tactics as helpful business lessons that you can apply to your mission of building the best among the best mental health apps.
That’s me (on the right), and Ada our HR Manager (on the left). From our (Employer Branding and HR) perspective, people’s well being and mental health are really, really important. I’d even say it’s crucial for a whole company and its success. Taking care of mental health allows us to thrive in business, in our daily lives, and is highly important from a company and HR/EB perspective. I hope this article and apps will be both inspiring and helpful and will increase your overall level of inner peace and happiness.
Table of Content
- How Mental Health Issues Impact the Tech Industry
- Can a Mental Health App Replace Real Therapy?
- Top 8 Best Mental Health Apps and Startups Worth Checking Out
- 1. Headspace
- 2. Happify
- 3. Ksana Health
- 4. Talkspace
- 5. Ten Percent Happier
- 6. Calm
- 7. Shine
- 8. BetterHelp
- Why Your New Startup Should Be in the Mental Health Sector?
We build beautiful products for U.S.-based startups
Ksana Health Case Study: How I created designs that got featured in TechCrunch
Here’s an in-depth, detailed, step-by-step study of how Asia created web designs for Ksana - a mental health startup from Oregon.
Best Productivity Apps for Mac
Here is a Lifehack-exclusive list of my cherry-picked collection of the 17 best productivity apps for Mac. As they say: work smarter, not harder!
6 Astonishing US-based Data Science Startups Working for a Better Tomorrow
Is data science reserved only for big players? You couldn’t be more wrong. Read how data science helps startups build successful and meaningful businesses.