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The inequities in the US healthcare system are nothing new; it's been long understood that zip code has more to do with health outcomes than genetics. And that's just as true when it comes to mental health as it does with physical health: the American Psychological Association found that Black people are 21% less likely to use mental health services, Asian people are 51% less likely to benefit from mental health services, and Latinos are 25% less likely.
That's why Headspace Health is making diversity and inclusion a central part of its platform, Russell Glass, CEO of Headspace Health, told VatorNews.
"Data shows that people who identify as Black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and/or LGBTQIA+ have higher rates of anxiety and depression, and fewer options for inclusive, culturally competent care and support," he said.
"Because of this, we have been on an ongoing journey towards greater representation and inclusivity in our offerings. We know that if people don’t see themselves represented in our content and experiences, it’s unlikely they’ll experience meaningful results. We’ve been making adjustments to our content both in and outside of the app to ensure it mirrors the diversity of voices and experiences across our team, our member populations, and community."
While no financial terms of the deal were disclosed, it was revealed that the Shine app will be sunsetting later this year, and that its content will be integrated into Headspace Health’s consumer and enterprise offerings, including Headspace in-app experiences, as well as the company’s Leadership Workshop Series, and ongoing webinars.
Meanwhile, Shine’s co-founders and co-CEOs, Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi, will be joining assuming leadership roles on Headspace Health's product and marketing teams, respectively.
"We know that we can’t achieve our mission, which is to transform mental healthcare to improve the health and happiness of the world, without infusing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging into the fabric of everything we do at Headspace Health. One of our top strategic priorities as a combined organization is to build the world’s most inclusive mental health and wellbeing brand," Glass said.
"By acquiring Shine now, we believe we can significantly advance our DEI&B efforts by bringing on an experienced team that has been delivering against similar work for the past six years, and aligns with our vision, mission and values at Headspace Health."
Shine was started in 2016, after the founders noticed what Lidey calls, "the incredible lack of representation and inclusion in the mental health and wellness category."
"We didn’t see ourselves, our skin color, our own experiences, socioeconomic situations, or even body types represented in mainstream wellness. We also began to realize that we were not alone. So many others in what we might consider marginalized groups felt the same," she explained.
This became particularly apparent for them after the shooting of Philando Castille that year; both Lidey and Hirabayashi went on the internet to search for coping tools and resources on how best to support their families, but found nothing directly relevant to the experience of Black trauma in the news, and its impact on their collective mental health.
"It was out of this frustration, and the realization that something needed to be done, that Shine was created. We wanted to make something engaging and supportive for all of life’s experiences - to help more people cope, process, and heal in a way that works for them," said Lidey.
The Shine app currently has 6 million subscribers, a majority of whom identifying as BIPOC and LGBTQIA+. A person of color may seek support from Shine in managing microaggressions, white fragility, representation burnout, and/or Asian hate and its impact on AAPI communities.
All Shine content is rooted in the foundations of Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), a type of mindful psychotherapy that helps a person stay focused on the present moment and accept thoughts and feelings without judgment. The company has also intersected ACT with its own Equitable Mental Health Matrix, a model that works from a non-deficit model of cultural competence.
"This approach is very useful when supporting marginalized groups, given that the experiences of underrepresented groups are often dismissed by those who don’t have similar experiences," Lidey explained.
"We want to approach mental health support with empathy and understanding that everyone’s path is unique and we can better manage the hard stuff by accepting how we feel, choosing to seek support or redirect our emotions, and, lastly, take an action."
In addition to its consumer-focused features, Shine also has more than 90 enterprise clients through its Shine at Work platform; they will have the opportunity to transition to the Headspace for Work platform going forward. Current members of Shine will be given complimentary access to the Headspace app.
Furthering diversity and inclusion in mental health
For Headspace, the goal of this acquisition, and the company's joint efforts, is to ensure that the care and support it provides is culturally sensitive and competent at all stages of a person’s mental health journey, said Glass.
"When we met with the Shine team, it was clear that they had capabilities, content, expertise, and talent that we recognized would allow us to accelerate this offering more quickly and thoughtfully than we could have on our own," he said, while also praising Lidey and Hirabayashi.
"Shine stood out as a natural partner for us in this area – not only due to the award-winning content they’ve developed for their members over the years, but also because their team is incredibly talented. Marah and Naomi are visionary leaders who have dedicated their careers to advancing mental health equity and have become vocal advocates about the need for more inclusive, representative support for communities of color. This work has never been more critical."
For Shine, the fact that "a top mental health and wellness brand, known across the globe, is bringing us into the fold," says a lot about the company and how important its mission is, said Lidey.
"I believe this acquisition further proves the value of our intent and indicates that we were, and still are, on the right track. It also demonstrates a global need for more inclusive care, content, and expertise that we are excited to be a part of."
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