One in four people in the world will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives. It is estimated that about 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of disability worldwide. While treatments are available, nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders according to the WHO.
The San Francisco-based startup Lantern is developing web and mobile programs to make mental health services more accessible. With the aim of removing the stigma and barriers that prevent people from getting proper care, they have combined clinical research, expertise and technology and turned it into an innovative cognitive behavioral therapy that can be accessed anytime with any device.
User start by taking a questionnaire, an assessment based on clinical research and proven to accurately evaluate situations, symptoms and emotions. Lantern then gives daily exercises tailored to the users’ specific needs, which increase their ability to deal with difficult situations. At the same time, every user is matched with a professional coach who is available when you need them to answer questions and give support and feedback. These coaches are at the top of their field, holding advanced degrees, and gone through a rigorous selection process. Currently, Lantern’s personalized programs focus on anxiety, body image, and stress management, and they are later this month planning to launch a program on mood.
The service is an innovative and sophisticated way of combining cognitive behavioral therapy and consumer electronics. While the service has the potential to help millions of people, it is important to highlight that it should not be seen as a replacement for therapy, but a tool to help better manage everyday challenges that affect people’s mental health. It will definitely be very interesting to follow Lantern and their development of new programs, possibly for more complex mental disorders. However, such programs might demand more from the professional coaches, ultimately make the service less scalable.
Lantern recently raised $17 million in Series A funding led by UPMC Enterprises, joined by previous investors Mayfield Fund, SoftTech Venture Capital and StanfordUniversity. They plan to focus more on integrating Lantern into employer insurance plans, enabling employees to access the platform. They also want to invest in research studies to show that symptoms reduction positively affects overall health costs. UPMC clinicians will also work with Lantern on two pilots aimed at expanding programs to address additional behavioral health issues and potentially more complex conditions.