Help­ing hand

Ot­tawa-based startup launch­ing pi­lot project in Canadian com­mu­ni­ties with high youth sui­cide rates

Ottawa Business Journal - - Front Page - BY ADAM FEIBEL adam@obj.ca

Ot­tawa-based startup’s app of­fers eas­ier ac­cess to men­tal health ser­vices for peo­ple of all ages

An Ot­tawa-based soft­ware startup wants to make it eas­ier for peo­ple to ac­cess men­tal health ser­vices us­ing mo­bile soft­ware that the firm says will also be a lu­cra­tive plat­form for in­de­pen­dent ther­apy businesses look­ing to ex­pand their client bases.

The com­pany plans to run its youth­fo­cused pi­lot pro­gram in two Canadian com­mu­ni­ties that made na­tional headlines this year as they grap­pled with alarm­ingly high youth sui­cide rates.

Snap clar­ity is a mo­bile app startup headed by Terri Storey of Ter­race Well­ness Group. The app pairs each user with an as­so­ciate – a cer­ti­fied ther­a­pist or life coach – so they may com­mu­ni­cate any­time and any­where via un­lim­ited text mes­sag­ing, with the op­tion to pur­chase ad­di­tional ser­vices such as video calls and tra­di­tional in-per­son coun­selling ses­sions.

Ac­cord­ing to the Canadian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion, 20 per cent of

– TERRI STOREY, FOUNDER OF SNAP CLAR­ITY

Cana­di­ans will ex­pe­ri­ence men­tal ill­ness in their life­time and about eight per cent of adults will suf­fer from ma­jor de­pres­sion at some point in their lives, yet only half seek treat­ment.

Ms. Storey, who has nearly 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence with men­tal health treat­ment cen­tres across On­tario as the founder and pres­i­dent of Ter­race Youth Res­i­den­tial Ser­vices, ex­plains that the idea for the soft­ware was to ad­dress the three ma­jor bar­ri­ers that pre­vent peo­ple from get­ting proper treat­ment: lack of ac­cess, time and suit­able ser­vices for a pa­tient’s needs.

“For anx­i­ety, for de­pres­sion, in­stead of wait­ing for weekly ap­point­ments, they can have ac­cess when it’s needed,” she says. “It’s cost-ef­fec­tive, it can be any­where, any­time, and we know from re­search that pa­tients do bet­ter when they have ac­cess to their ther­a­pists on a daily ba­sis.”

With a monthly sub­scrip­tion fee of $100 for un­lim­ited text mes­sag­ing, the costs are lower on av­er­age than what one would pay in tra­di­tional “brick-and­mor­tar” set­tings, Ms. Storey says.

“We just want to get this into peo­ple’s hands,” she says. “It’s an evo­lu­tion – we’re try­ing to change the way men­tal health is de­liv­ered.”

The app is be­ing de­vel­oped by Ict­i­nus, the Ot­tawa-based dig­i­tal de­sign firm that also worked for lo­cal startup Punch time. Within a month, Snap clar­ity plans to close out a Series A fi­nanc­ing round of about $2 mil­lion, which is roughly the startup cost to build and launch the prod­uct.

With rev­enues com­ing from a 30 per cent cut of sub­scrip­tion fees and trans­ac­tions made through the mo­bile plat­form, Snap clar­ity is pro­ject­ing $262 mil­lion in rev­enues in its first 18 months and $2.8 mil­lion in monthly re­cur­ring rev­enues by its first year.

The firm’s main com­peti­tor, New York-based Talkspace, has a very sim­i­lar con­cept and al­ready re­ports 300,000 users and $28 mil­lion in fi­nanc­ing. But Snap clar­ity’s greatest ad­van­tage may be its youth out­reach, since many other sim­i­lar ser­vices – talkspace in­cluded – are only for users over 18.

Ac­cord­ing to the CMHA, an es­ti­mated 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are af­fected by men­tal ill­ness, yet only one in five of them re­ceive treat­ment. Sui­cide is among the lead­ing causes of death for

Terri Storey is the founder of Snapclar­ity. “We just want to get this into peo­ple’s hands. It’s an evo­lu­tion – we’re try­ing to change the way men­tal health is de­liv­ered.”

Cana­di­ans aged 15 to 24, ac­count­ing for 4,000 deaths per year in that age group and mak­ing Canada’s youth sui­cide rate the third-high­est in the in­dus­tri­al­ized world, the CMHA says.

The app’s pi­lot project will take place in two com­mu­ni­ties highly af­fected by youth sui­cide: Cross Lake, where six peo­ple died by sui­cide, many of them young peo­ple, in a span of two months and 140 at­tempted sui­cide in two weeks in Pimi­cika­mak Cree Na­tion in north­ern Man­i­toba; and Wood­stock, where high school stu­dents walked out of classes in June to draw at­ten­tion to a spate of sui­cides and at­tempted sui­cides in the small south­ern On­tario city.

“We feel that’s a re­ally good pop­u­la­tion to use this ser­vice,” says Ms. Storey. “We’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing with youth in the way that they’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing now.”

Snap clar­ity is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing a deal with an as-yet-undis­closed tele­com com­pany that would pro­vide 100 smart­phones and ac­com­pa­ny­ing mo­bile data ser­vice for at-risk teens in those two ar­eas to use to ac­cess six months of free ther­apy us­ing the app, she says.

The trial is slated for mid-Au­gust, while the full prod­uct launch is ex­pected in Jan­uary.

From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, Ms. Storey sees the app as be­ing ad­van­ta­geous not only for the com­pany it­self but also for ther­a­pists and coaches – many of them en­trepreneurs with their own pri­vate prac­tices – look­ing to reach more clients. It’s a “plat­form for them to be able to ser­vice more peo­ple and make more money,” she says.

Snap clar­ity is also look­ing to part­ner with an Ot­tawa univer­sity to be part of its ad­vi­sory group and is seek­ing govern­ment con­tracts to help spread ac­cess to ser­vices pro­vided by the app.

“My passion is to help as many peo­ple as we pos­si­bly can,” says Ms. Storey.

PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

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