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More Black and Hispanic young people living with anxiety, stress, depression and mental illness



With MindRight, judgment-free support from a professional who understands is just a text away

Working in education in Newark, Ashley Edwards came face-to-face with the issues that make emotional wellbeing more difficult for young adults from low-income families and people of color. After moving away from New Jersey for her own education, Edwards came to Newark to work at a local high school. She soon found out just how little had changed during her years away. 

“Community violence, living in food deserts, mass incarceration, systemic racism — the mental health impacts of these play out on a daily basis in the lives of kids,” says Edwards. 

“My school was completely under-resourced. I had such strong, resilient students, and I would ask myself ‘why do they have to be resilient? Why do they have to overcome mountains on a daily basis?’ I saw cycles of intergenerational trauma persisting firsthand,” Edwards recalls. 

That experience and a desire to help her community confront the increasingly dire youth mental health crisis is what led Edwards to create and lead MindRight Health, a mental health coaching service that leverages texting to provide coaching and emotional support to young adults ages 13 to 25.

Access to MindRight is free for eligible members.

A Needed Focus On Black and Hispanic Youth 

When resilience is the only way to get through the day, opportunities to be open, honest, and vulnerable in a judgment-free space can be few and far between. And with the age-old stigma around therapy still very present, people—and especially young people—don’t seek it out as often as they should. The problem is particularly acute in Black and Hispanic communities.   

The consequences of the decades-long mental health treatment gap are tragic:

  • A recent New York University study concluded that suicide attempts by Black adolescents rose 73 percent from 1991 to 2017.
  • The suicide rate among Black girls, in particular, rose 6 percent per year on average from 2003 to 2017, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in New Jersey for young Black men and women ages 15 to 24, according to Devin English, PHD, of Rutgers University.2
  • COVID-19 has made matters even worse: JAMA Pediatrics reports that suicide by adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 increased in five states, including New Jersey, during the global pandemic.

MindRight Provides Free Help From Coaches Who Have The Same Lived Experience

Once users sign up on their phones (no face-to-face meeting or phone call required), they can receive guidance from a team of coaches supervised by licensed mental health clinicians–it all happens via text, and it’s available seven days a week. Most importantly, many of the coaches have lived experiences similar to those that the users are currently going through.

“It’s important that our coaches match the lived experience of communities they serve,” Edwards says. “People often think they can’t afford therapy, or they feel the wait list is too long, or they simply don’t feel like they need it, but still are seeking emotional support. For these communities, we provide a destigmatized and accessible option: nonclinical coaching. Because our coaches share their lived experience, we can relate to youth and earn their trust.” 

When that trust is established, the young adults using MindRight are encouraged to share the details of their lives and talk through rough patches in a safe and supportive environment. And it’s not just trauma and difficulties that MindRight coaches are hoping to glean from users, but positive experiences too.

“We want the good and bad. We want to process joy with them, too. It’s important for us to do both. That’s what makes us a proactive mental health response.”

MindRight, Meet Horizon

MindRight’s relationship with Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey began when Edwards participated in a Horizon COVID-19 task force on behavioral health. “One of the key takeaways was the need for peer support and alternative resources for youth in the wake of the pandemic. After that task force completed, Horizon circled back to see if we could make something happen.”

The result: MindRight’s text-based emotional support coaching is a covered service under many employer-sponsored health plans and offered as part of Horizon Behavioral Health (HBH). HBH is a network of more than 8,000 providers who offer a full range of mental health services to treat the whole person. The network has grown by 40 percent over the last two years and continues to grow in size and diversity to better serve our members.

Expansion is in the cards for MindRight, as Edwards and her team continue to seek out partnerships with health insurance providers and Medicaid plans to make their resource as accessible as possible. 

“Horizon is a leader in the state and working with them gives us amazing visibility. As a people-of-color led organization, that’s very important. We want young people to see a reflection of themselves in us and know that they’re not alone.”

To sign up for MindRight, text hello to 886-886. When asked for a referral code, text “horizon.”

To learn more about your behavioral health benefits and costs, consult your summary of benefits or call the number on the back of your member ID card.

Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

 1. MindRight is covered for commercial FI and SHBP only. Contact your employer benefits manager for eligibility information.

2. NJ Spotlight, 4/8/22