Science-Based Mental-Health App for Teens
Earlier this year, Medical News Today, a digital platform for health news, published an article showcasing the Top 8 Mental-Health Apps.
On the list were big names like Headspace (once valued at three billion dollars), Calm (valued at two billion dollars), and Talkspace (went public in 2021 at a nearly one-and-a-half billion-dollar valuation).
But so was an early-stage startup, named the best mental-health app for children and teenagers. It’s called SuperBetter.
Created by a New York Times best-selling author and game designer, as well as a CEO who has launched more than one billion dollars’ worth of new products, SuperBetter is targeting the fourteen billion-dollar market for educators trying to treat mental health among students. Last year, one in three high-school students experienced poor mental health. And in December 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory notice highlighting the need to address the nation’s youth mental-health crisis.
Many are doing important work to improve access to mental health care, particularly among students. But fixing treatment access isn’t enough. Ending the crisis requires reducing the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Teachers can play an important role in improving their students’ mental health. But they need practical tools that can help. That’s where SuperBetter enters the picture.
This platform empowers youth to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. To do it, it applies the psychology of gameplay to everyday life. This means engaging students with steps like “Challenging Yourself,” “Finding and Battling the Bad Guys,” “Adopting Secret Identities,” and “Seeking Out and Completing Quests.”
Simply put, this platform connects to students by using their affinity for video games — seventy-five percent of U.S. youths play video games. Here’s how it works:
A teacher, for example, can host a challenge, maybe a five-day challenge to develop the skill of empathy or time management. They’ll then invite students to play and monitor their progress.
Students, meanwhile, accept the challenge and play on the web or their mobile device (outside of class time). Gameplay takes just five to ten minutes a day.
SuperBetter was created with fun in mind. But its approach to mental health is rooted in science. In a trial conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, SuperBetter’s app reduced symptoms of depression. It also increased optimism, social support, and life satisfaction.
In additional studies and trials — SuperBetter has been evaluated in a dozen published studies — students showed improved social skills and reduced anxiety.
SuperBetter isn’t just for teachers. Anyone can purchase a subscription, including youth sports coaches, peer support-group leaders, employers, and therapists. Hosts pay about $100 a year to host up to thirty players, or $597 a year to host up to 199 players.
SuperBetter is free of charge for students, though they can elect to pay twenty-five dollars a year to engage in solo challenges.
More than one million people have played SuperBetter. And the platform has a 4.7-star rating on the App Store.
“Best app for anxiety EVER!,” said one reviewer. “I’m a therapist and struggle with getting clients to do small things to build momentum and achieve their goals. This app does that," said another.
SuperBetter won the World Economic Forum’s Youth Mental Health Challenge. And it won a $150,000 prize in the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Health Innovation Technology Challenge. This led to a revenue-producing partnership with Parkland Health System to empower at-risk teens.
SuperBetter completed the gBETA Social Impact Accelerator for ventures advancing equity in education. And the company even started a global development program aimed at getting its platform into the hands of low-resource schools in developing countries. A one-year pilot in Zambia is concluding soon.
SuperBetter projects to generate $200,000 in revenue this year and $2.6 million in 2023. It aims to bring in $9.4 million in 2024.
Keith is a brand builder who’s launched more than one billion dollars’ worth of new products. Earlier this year, he was named by The World Economic Forum as a top innovator in the field of youth mental health.
Prior to starting SuperBetter, he advised CEOs of food & beverage and consumer packaged goods companies, specifically on branding and M&A strategy. Before that, he founded Cherry Street Innovation, a consulting firm for emerging companies.
Earlier in his career, he led venture development for Kellogg, a food & beverage company, and served as its Head of Innovation for its two-billion-dollar snacks division. Prior to that, he was a brand manager with Nabisco, a food company, and began his career in retail sales with Procter & Gamble.
Keith earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Illinois State University and an MBA from the University of Illinois Chicago.
Jane is a New York Times best-selling author and game designer.
After earning a Bachelor’s degree in English from Fordham University, she earned a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from the University of California Berkeley.
While studying for her Ph.D., she began developing computer and video games. In 2009, she suffered a concussion which led to feelings of suicide and depression. So she created a game to help treat her symptoms, a game that would serve as the inspiration for SuperBetter.
Jane has collaborated on commissioned games for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. She has been named one of the most important women in video gaming and was named to Oprah’s “O Power List,” recognizing the most important women, in 2010.