Adolescence is a time filled with both possibility and challenge, especially when it comes to building self-confidence and resilience. Developing self-identity is particularly difficult when the lines between the physical and digital worlds are increasingly blurred—giving a platform of authority to anyone who’s popular, allowing adult strife to bleed into teen spaces, and introducing endless, ephemeral influences that can be manipulated by tech in hundreds of ways. That doesn’t even take into account the global pandemic that’s shaken the core of young adults’ social and educational lives and impacted the physical, mental, and emotional health of many.
For this digital-native generation, connecting through technology is second nature. How can we use tech platforms as a force for good, empowering teens to build up their self-esteem and mental health?
The Rise of Telehealth Services
Over the past 10 years, several telehealth and personal crisis platforms have risen to prominence—think 98point6, BetterHelp, and Crisis Text Line. Some are free services staffed by trained volunteers; others are privately paid; increasingly, company health insurance covers certain telehealth services.
Telehealth responds to our modern desire to carry out our lives at our convenience, from anywhere, with service at our fingertips. Being able to seek care online also caters to some people’s preference for anonymous connection—the sense that it’s easier to open up about health concerns via text or to someone who can’t see you—that the internet provides.
Finding Young Adults' Resolv
Lydia Henshaw, PhD, saw an opportunity to help teens and young adults get the mental health services they need to build self-confidence and resilience in a digital, connected way. In 2019, she founded Resolv (formerly Moxie Girl), an accessible, action-oriented online platform that fosters personal connection with real, relatable near-peer mentors. Originally targeted to young people who identify as female, Resolv expanded their services to cover all genders during the pandemic.
Peer support, Lydia said, is a method of care that is growing in popularity across the US. Think back to when you were a teen. Whose advice was more effective: that of your parent, who sympathized about going through similar struggles “at your age” with a paternalistic note they couldn’t quite shake from their voice? Or that of your peer, who went through the same thing a couple of months or years ago?
“Peer support is a really strong method of recovery where you have someone who has been through the same trauma or been through the same different co-occurring diagnoses, and they are on the side of recovery,” she explained in her Navigating Forward podcast episode.
“That person is reaching their arm through the chasm to the person who is in the process of recovering or working through some of these disorders. And their role is to just walk by their side and help that person—instill hope, instill insight into how different paths of recovery can come to be. Help them set goals. Serve as a mentor. Really just be a presence in their life as they go through the journey.”
That all sounds great—but wouldn’t it be better to get that support in real life, as opposed to online? Not necessarily.“There’s a greater willingness to try telehealth solutions,” Lydia explained. “People are more likely to stick with a regimen or check back in for appointments because you don’t have the travel time or the investment to connect with doctors, to get support.” For young people who are already accustomed to connecting online, there’s even less friction.
Tech In Its Most Human Form
Resolv’s platform allows young adults to find a trained peer supporter that they see themselves in—another indicator for success. Someone who looks like them and has been through similar experiences (including life-changing challenges like addiction, anxiety, illness, sexual assault, and depression) makes a more relatable and compelling mentor than an adult counselor.
Over the next six weeks, the patient uses a HIPAA-compliant mobile app to meet 1:1 with their peer mentor, join group sessions with other young adults facing challenges, and access video and blog resources to help them set and achieve recovery goals. The program is designed to reap value at the end of each week, and after six weeks, the patient has the option to either continue receiving active support, or create an action plan with their peer mentor to carry their new skills and goals into the rest of their life.
All program elements have been created in partnership with behavioral health providers and hospital systems to provide reliable, verifiable peer support as the patients walk through recovery and build toward their goals.
“For some of our peer supporters, it’s the first time that they have an opportunity to see their situation as something that can be used for good—a way to help bring someone else towards healing.” At this, Lydia becomes audibly emotional. “We’re in the business of giving hope, you know…I love seeing people become their full self.”
Lydia has staked her career on her belief in the value of coaching to bring out the best in people. “And,” she adds, “I love technology. So if we can do that at scale, by building a really, really cool product that changes lives, it’s motivating and inspiring.”
Resolv has a clear goal: Ten million mentally strong, confident young people in the next ten years. Lydia and her team want their clients to have confidence and understanding literally in the palm of their hand. With the rise of telehealth and increasing iteration to find the ideal mix of tech-supported human services, they’re well on their way.
Key takeaways from Resolv’s growing success in the age of telehealth
Telehealth has reached legitimacy and, in some cases, is preferable to in-person care.
Many people, especially digital natives, are more willing to try and stick with telehealth services.
Telehealth taps into the advantage of global online connection to connect people with similar backgrounds in order to achieve better mental health outcomes.
While telehealth vastly improves access to people with disabilities, people who lack transportation, and young people, telehealth services vary widely in cost accessibility and, depending on the company, may not have the same kind of regulation as in-person treatment.
Key questions to consider
If you’re a provider or insurer: What would it take for telehealth to feel as comprehensive and legitimate as other insured forms of care?
If you’re not in the healthcare industry: Digitized customer support, ecommerce, and the like are fully ingrained in our day-to-day lives. How can the support and rigor of digital healthcare carry over into your business?
What kind of health procedures haven’t been digitized—but could, with an audacious idea?
What is the perfect balance between tech enablement and human contact?