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Providing mental health support and resources for vulnerable youth via a mobile app

Monitoring mental health needs among female and non-binary, LGBTQ, youth of color and connecting them with high quality resources

Photo of Cristina Leos
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Real Talk is a mobile app that connects teens with authentic stories and trusted resources on sensitive topics. We crowdsource stories from teens on sexual health, mental health, and identity-related topics, carefully screen and curate all content, and pair each story with a high quality online resource. During COVID-19, we have pivoted to focus specifically on emerging mental health needs among female and non-binary, LGBTQ, youth of color and connecting teens with referrals and wraparound mental health supports.

What is the need are you focusing on?

During a time when schools, workplaces, and entire cities have shut down, people from around the world mobilized at lightning speed to gather essential resources. Few of these resources, however, focus on the mental and emotional needs of youth. Real Talk began collecting stories from teens about their experiences during the pandemic a few weeks ago and our data shows that teens are experiencing significant mental and emotional health concerns that have been caused or magnified by the Covid-19 outbreak. We are quickly working to monitor mental health needs and connect our users with additional support they may need.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider
  • Sharing an actual pivot your organization has already made

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

Real Talk saw a 48% increase in downloads in the weeks following school closures nationwide. Since then, we have seen the greatest uptick in engagement from female and non-binary, LGBTQ, youth of color. Teens express worry over COVID-19 related health concerns, school cancellations, increased social isolation, and family conflict, and nearly 10% report not having anyone to turn to during this time. Real Talk does not normally provide 1-on-1 mental health support, however, there is an opportunity to provide teens with additional resources they may need at this time by working with other partners and community organizations to create referrals. We are currently expanding our communications and launching on a new platform in order to reach as many teens as possible, continuing data monitoring efforts to identify mental and emotional health needs, and are searching for partners to help implement referrals and wraparound mental health supports for Real Talk users.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

To date, we have reached 20,000 teens in all 50 U.S. states and in countries around the world. Nearly 80% of our users report that Real Talk stories and resources are helpful, and this pivot will allow us to better support youth who are most impacted by the COVID-19 disruptions. Our COVID-19 response efforts will allows us to nearly double the number of teens we can reach, and working with partner organizations will allows us to provide higher quality resources and referrals to additional services. Our goal is to quickly set up a small scale version of the triage system described above to test with 100 users in the month of June and determine if/how to scale up.

What is the name of your business or organization?

Our mobile app, Real Talk, is operated by the tech nonprofit MyHealthed, Inc.

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

MyHealthEd, Inc. is a tech nonprofit dedicated to using human-centered design to improve the health and wellbeing of youth of every identity:

What is your profession?

Behavioral scientist & entrepreneur

Where are you located (country)?

United States

Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Technology
  • Youth Development

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 2-5 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We would like support in identifying technology partners, referral partners, and others who can help implement wraparound mental health services for our users

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

The main barriers will be identifying the right partner organizations and roles (i.e., Who is best positioned to partner with us? What kinds of referrals and services will be of greatest use to our users? How do we refer and track users from our platform to the partner organizations?), and implementing the necessary updates to our existing technology platform.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

Our platform is designed to help support teens with difficult topics before they reach a point of crisis intervention, and we have learned that we have limited capacity to respond quickly to 1-on-1 requests for support. We want to be responsive to the needs we see among our user base, but we believe we are best positioned to identify where teens may be on fit along a spectrum of mental and emotional health needs, and then triage them to the most appropriate resource for them at that time. We also quickly learned that we can have much greater impact by partnering with organizations who already offer crisis intervention services and have the capacity and resources to work with youth 1-on-1.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

Yes, we have reached out to other mutual aid efforts to match technology partners with nonprofits to launch critical projects during COVID-19

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Thank you Cristina null  for sharing the pivot your organization is currently doing. I especially like that your venture is focussing on the youth. Could you share more on how you are thinking about sustainability for the project?

I wonder if you can also connect with these ideas on the platform: Ira by Anasurya Praveen , MyCognition mental resilience app by Anna Sandford-James  and Caregiving Podcast by Danielle De La Fuente ? Might there be possible collaborations?

Photo of Danielle De La Fuente

Hi Cristina null great project! I was reading through your material to see if there are points for collaboration. We work with much younger children ages 1-12, so just before the teen mark. Also, areas we work in have very poor connectivity, so if the app requires wifi, that is a secondary barrier. But love the work you are doing! Very timely

Photo of Cristina Leos

Hi Isaac Jumba , thanks for the support and the recommendations! I'll check them out. We are currently looking for new grant investments to support tests and expansion of any new services we implement to connect youth with additional mental health supports. In the short term, we would ideally also be able to partner with service providers or other organizations that already offer these services or could easily add in services for youth to better understand opportunities for financial sustainability.

Photo of Cristina Leos

Thanks Danielle De La Fuente ! Your work sounds great. We are also very interested in incorporating more explicitly SEL strategies into our storytelling and resources, I'd love to learn more about your project.

Photo of Danielle De La Fuente

Sure, happy to set up a time to chat. Shoot me a note at and we can find a time in the coming weeks.