Roni Frank Talks Disrupting Stigma and the #FutureofTherapy

The following is an edited transcript of Roni’s speech from our clinical conference, The Future of Therapy:

I’d like to thank everyone for joining us at the first Talkspace clinical conference. This is an exciting moment for us, as we’ve gathered industry leaders to discuss the impact of technology on our mental health and the changing landscape of health care.

When we started the company, we often received feedback from friends and people from the startup industry that we were talking too much about topics that sound too “heavy,” such as: depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse. That it’s very depressing to even read our interviews, that we have to make it lighter. People suggested we talk about lighter problems — more around wellness, parenthood or career, to make the Talkspace vision sound more cool and sexy.

There is a reason why this mission doesn’t sound very uplifting. Because it’s not. Mental health is not a sexy topic, the same way cancer is not a sexy topic.

1 in 5 people suffer from mental health issues each year, 70% of them have no access to services. 25 million Americans are diagnosed with depression each year. Depression is more common than heart disease, cancer and HIV combined.

Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide in America.

Talkspace is solving one of the most pressing problems in this country and, really, all over the world. We are committed to democratizing mental health care by removing the main barriers, cost and access, while following our mission to stop the stigma.

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Stigma is dangerous. Because of stigma, people prefer to suffer in silence, to ignore themselves and their needs, to live in pain, and as a result their health is getting worse and worse. Their pain is getting overwhelming and their condition might become, at some point, irreversible and even life threatening.

So we are going to talk about this topic as it is: without shame, without hiding behind encouraging words, without trying to make it sound easier, without apologizing, but rather in an authentic way, in your face, over and over and over again until everyone gets used to hearing those terms, until stigma is gone, until there is no shame, until society treats mental illnesses with dignity and respect, until people talk about their mental health problems the same way they are talking about cancer or diabetes, until every person in need has access to mental health care.

Many therapists have reached out to me, telling me about specific cases where people really need help but can’t afford the service; people without any income but with heartbreaking stories. There was a 25 year-old girl, unemployed, who was abused as a child for seven years by her father, or an 18 year-old transgender person who was abandoned by his family and lives in public housing, and a 35 year-old man who told the therapist it took him four months to save enough for one week of therapy.

roni frank talkspace co-founder quoteWe see so much pain in our community, so many lonely and wounded people, without any support, without any resources, yet they still find the strength to reach out for help, driven by hope and the human spirit.

In light of these stories, it is my honor to announce the Talkspace “Therapy for All” program. Talkspace is pledging a special donation of 500 months of free online therapy a year, provided to low-income people in need, and sponsored entirely by Talkspace. Mental health care is not a privilege for the rich. It is a right.

If all the people who are reading this today work together on this mission, all leaders and talents from all fields: psychology, technology, product, marketing, research, the mental health community, founders – if we all collaborate, we can make a difference, we can open access, we can reduce costs, we can change people’s lives and we can shape the future of mental health care.

You can watch the full speech below:

Published by

Roni Frank

Co-Founder & Head of Clinical Services