(Special thanks to Ryan Hesslau of Above the Waves for his time and insight)
Even before the current COVID-19 pandemic, high school and college students have many issues connecting with mental health services. Despite current statistics around youth and adolescent mental health issues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), and the World Health Organization (WHO), accessing services can be a challenge due to both logistical and policy challenges. However, Above the Waves is hoping to address the issue of student mental health through technology, and we had the opportunity to speak with CEO Ryan Hesslau about the app.
Working to meet the needs of junior high, high school, and college students, Above the Waves hopes to innovate and improve on existing Offices of Student Services. The app’s overall goal is to shorten the distance between students and counselors and works to ensure safety and anonymity. Stemming from Ryan’s past work with the youth development initiative ForeverU, the Above the Waves platform has three key outcomes:
- Equip every student with a mobile help place to find mental health and safety support
- Boost productive and student engagement for each of our school counselors
- Improve morale while building insight into your students.
With many schools acknowledging greater mental health and safety needs for their students, Above the Waves provides a well-needed resource. Above the Waves platform works through a mobile app that gives students streamlined access to services, bundling together school counselors, 24/7 crisis hotlines, and local mental health resources. By streamlining access and anonymity through more direct access, Above the Waves allows students to schedule sessions with their school counselor (or other professional) directly. For many schools, the Above the Waves app can make student engagement of services much easier.
One of the challenges, however, is getting school systems to onboard all of their students around the Above the Waves app. Although schools can get a free license (and we’ll have details at the end of this post), this is a relatively new concept for schools. Although many schools either lacked a response or expressed resistance to the app “right now”, school counselors have been the greatest advocates. (Despite efforts to initiate key decision-makers, Ryan Hesslau decided to shift tactics and engage school counselors directly). With many students currently dealing with greater mental health and safety issues (such as living in an abusive or nonsupportive environment), Above the Waves can be an important tool in establishing healthier behaviors and providing well-needed services.
Many mental health and safety needs are going unnoticed; Above the Waves seeks to ensure that does not happen and improve responsiveness and access to services during the pandemic. Although schools are still deciding whether or not to reopen this fall (at the time of this writing), it is critical that schools be responsive to the growing youth mental health crisis that our world is experiencing. Those interested in learning more about Above the Waves and securing a free license to their technology for the fall semester should schedule a call with their team at www.abovethewaves.co.