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Oct 27, 2020    Burn Book

This “Better” Help is Barely Breathing


Last month, we wrote about common startup downfalls and the misdirectional excuses we see and hear too often after an idea meets its 2020 grave. One of these most common excuses in startup post-mortems is timing, or in other words, “the zeitgeist wasn’t ready for us.”

Sad But True

We already addressed here why that excuse doesn’t hold any water. We also addressed in that same blog how a startup with smart integrated marketing strategy would never use, or have to use, that excuse, because businesses that invest in brand marketing strategy know that a core part of success is making sure the zeitgeist is ready for you.

We’ll hold our tongue and refrain from starting this next sentence with “unfortunately,” because who knows, maybe they’ll wise up and succeed. But, we’ve found a prime example of this folly in the growing mental health industry.

In all our browsing, in all our content digesting, we see the millions of dollars being invested into mental health startups. But, we haven’t seen anyone really upping their game in terms of the stigma around mental illness or treatment. Tell us, if the stigma stopping people from admitting they’re unwell, exploring their mental health, or seeking help remains unchallenged, how’s a brand new cool way of addressing mental illness going to change anything?

The stigma around mental illness is far and wide, and though Millennials and Gen Z are far more likely than older generations to talk about it and seek help, it still remains an industry clouded in judgment. True– there are plenty of brands and influencers and bloggers taking initiative to address the stigma directly. But without focused growth in this area, in the de-stigmatizing, including the funding and resources every initiative needs, these mental health brands are slowly heading towards that dastardly zeitgeist grave.

SaaS-es Don’t Speak to People

To get specific, a handful of the most-funded mental health startups revolve around streamlining doctor-patient communication, patient data monitoring and aggregation, and remote treatment. People are trying to make treatment more affordable, more personalized, more accessible. That’s reason to celebrate. In fact, the mere accessibility will undoubtedly up the number of people who are treated, thereby upping the number of people who then contribute to destigmatizing (sharing personal experiences, referrals, etc.). But there is no, that we’ve been able to find, increased focus on addressing the underlying stigma, such as:

— social media campaigns exploring how the stigma got to be where it is today,

— advertisements targeting those who have searched for a therapist but never found one,

— informational campaigns on what certain common illnesses can look like / how they manifest.

Focusing the Chatter

Will these growing startups make that a core part of their work? Will they manage to do it without it looking like a sleazy emotional tax before filtering people to the Buy button? Will someone invest in focusing the chatter into well-funded, relatable, and effective destigmatizing content?

Or, two years from now, are we going to see these new names in our post-mortem drawer, citing downfalls like funding, user base, and “the zeitgeist?” Even with all those Instagram posts telling people to meditate more? Shocking.

We can, at the very least, keep going as-is and hope for the best. I mean, Millennials and Gen Z aren’t going to stop their destigmatizing trend, especially in the wake of Covid-19 (can you call it a wake when it’s still going?). Maybe we’ll be glad to look back in ten years and see these startups as lucky in the face of generational shifts in views.

Not to be dramatic, but…

But, more likely, a piece of the puzzle will yet to be filled, slowly suffocating the life out of these treatment startups.

Is that depressing? Sorry, I’m a mentally ill Zillennial, that’s where my horse tends to lead me. But I’m not just speaking as a Zillennial. I’m speaking as a part of Rock Candy Media, one of the top ad agencies in Austin, TX,as well as the U.S. and the world. And though we never stop learning, we also know where we are the experts, and this mental health industry foundation could use a whole lot more brand strategy if it stands a long-haul chance.

Let Your Curiosity Take Control