In late January SafeSpace, a Menlo Park-based mental health clinic for youth, partnered with 7 Cups of Tea, a company that offers an on-demand emotional health and well-being service, to provide the SafeSpace Support Line to anyone through the app. The app gives users a way to anonymously chat one-on-one about their problems with trained confidential "listeners" through a computer or smartphone. The volunteer listeners take an online course to learn how to best offer words of support.
"It's super easy to use," said Isabelle Mimeles, a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School and a SafeSpace youth advisory board member who has used the app. "For a lot of students, to go and get help is a really big step that's overwhelming. This (the app) makes it not a big deal."
Isabelle joined the SafeSpace advisory board because she has struggled with anxiety and stress in the midst of a competitive environment at M-A, she said. SafeSpace was designed by and for youth, and provides people ages 12 to 26 access to professional mental health services.
Glen Moriarty, CEO of 7 Cups of Tea, said in an email that it's important to use technology to provide youth mental health support since technology is an easy route to reach teens.
There are 260,000 listeners worldwide available to chat on the app. Users can choose a random listener or one based on the listener's life experiences, ethnicity and expertise. The app includes exercises that help users learn about —and cope with — specific challenges that concern them, such as social anxiety, stress or loneliness.
Therapy is "overbooked and expensive," and the app is an effort to provide an initial resource for youth seeking mental health support, said Liesel Moldow, a co-founder of SafeSpace. The app is tailored to have a "warm person at the end of line to help kids get through the crisis moment," she said.
"It's not about replacing therapy," she added. "It's about resurrecting community support that's missing in our culture today."
SafeSpace now partners with 18 local middle and high schools, where student members of the SafeSpace youth advisory board work with teachers and administrators to develop programs at each school. SafeSpace also recently opened a clinic for students in downtown San Mateo because of the demand for services in that area.
The app is available at 7cups.com/p/safespace or through safespace.org.