Words by Tess Becker
Everyone struggles with their mental health at one point or another. Not every case is severe, but everyone can relate to feeling a little sad or downtrodden at some point in their life. The problem is that mental health care, especially for younger people, can be incredibly difficult to find.
Studies show that a lack of access to mental healthcare is the root cause of the mental health crisis in the US.
“My experience establishing mental health clinics across the country, coupled with this study, shows that more needs to be done to give Americans much needed access to mental health services,” said Cohen Veterans Network President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Anthony Hassan. “If we want to save lives, save families and save futures we must reimagine our behavioral health system and take concrete steps to improving consumers’ ability to find the care they need, when they need it, and on their terms.”
Some of the hardest hit people are students, who are generally younger, less well off and living through a formative and busy point in their life. When you face all these challenges it's difficult to find mental healthcare - let alone afford it - and that’s something that Maggie Rose Macar, CEO of Zant, wanted to change.
Zant, short for 'cognizant', is a mental health awareness platform that offers 25 different types of mental health aid at a reduced cost while making it even more affordable for students.
It all started when Maggie lost a friend to suicide at 19. She actively searched for support options but hit multiple roadblocks such as prices, availability and specialization of services.
After searching and contacting over 50 providers, someone finally saw her for a one-off free consultation. But after that he charged $150/session. After much searching, she eventually found a provider that would see her for $10/session which inspired the journey she is on today with Zant.
Many years ago, she launched Zant as a non-profit - then a beta version of its current iteration. Later, during the Covid pandemic, she recognized anew where Zant could meet a growing need.
“We were working so hard to try to create awareness for mental health support, but during Covid I realized, ‘Wow, there are so many people who actually just need these opportunities for free and they just can't get it and the care,’” Maggie tells Smiley News.
The current service has been around since about September 2022. It has had over 3000 downloads and is supports almost 700 active users - all from organic growth and word of mouth.
“This year we haven’t focused a lot on putting money towards marketing,” Maggie says. “We've been putting our funds towards tech innovation and being able to focus on listening to our users, listening to our providers, focusing on our business model, and really crafting that business model, and we hope that next year is going to be a year of a lot of marketing growth.”
Looking toward the future, they are expecting to launch an exciting partnership that Maggie says is currently hush-hush. In the longterm, she wants to reach more people with the goal of providing low-cost mental health care to those that need it most while normalizing mental health care.
“Our biggest goal is really to redefine the way that young people see mental health support,” she says. “We want it to be a part of their weekly routine, something as normalized as self-care is becoming, and mental health is a part of self-care.”
“I really believe that in order for somebody to live their lives to the fullest and be genuinely happy in their lives, they need to take time for their mental health.”
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
American Civil Liberties Union. This is one of the largest civil liberty defense organizations in the US. Find out more and support them here.
The Trevor Project. They focus on suicide prevention and mental health support for queer youth. Support them here.
Human Rights Campaign. This is one of the largest equality-focused organizations in the US. Find out more.