Ashley Edwards and Alina Liao

Introducing the New Way to Get Mental-health Help
August 16 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Getting Your Mind Right

A pet peeve of mine is when people throw around serious terms to describe not-so-serious situations, like, “That Lost finale traumatized me.” OK, Jenna, sure. It’s time we take psychological issues seriously. Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder occur when one experiences a threatening event resulting in fear or helplessness. I could give you some tips on how to deal with such serious emotions, but I’ll just remind you of the best starting point: Talk to someone, preferably someone who is unbiased, kindhearted and experienced in this subject.


Do you remember ever seeing your school counselor? Me neither. The average American school has one counselor for every 500 students. Yes, one person to help 500 kids. It gets worse: In some disadvantaged districts, there’s only one counselor for every 1,000 students.

WOMEN TO WATCH: Ashley Edwards and Alina Liao, Co-founders of MindRight

Today’s Women to Watch, Ashley Edwards and Alina Liao, co-founded a company that aims to destigmatize mental-health issues in communities of color. MindRight empowers youth of color to heal from trauma, like PTSD, through evidence-informed coaching.

Ashley and Alina met at Stanford Business School, but they both have rocky pasts, which eventually inspired their business idea. Before Ashley’s parents graduated from high school, they both witnessed a murder. Alina’s mother experienced severe depression. These experiences, along with their understanding of the lack of school counselors available to worried youth, led Alina and Ashley to realize that MindRight was the only logical solution.

These two entrepreneurs put their heads together and decided technology could be the answer to a dire crisis they weren’t immune to: One in four inner-city youth witness a murder by age 17. Since Alina and Ashley knew kids have a tough time talking about their feelings, they decided reaching them through their phones was the most effective way to help them.

MindRight bases its mission on of five values, including unconditional respect, intersectionality, advocacy against systems of oppression, transparency and, of course, self-care. The difference between MindRight and going to see a school counselor is that teens suffering from trauma don’t show up to a room with a lumpy couch, a box of tissues and awkward pauses. A team of empathetic people checks in with them daily via text message, sans judgment.

What’s so cool about this concept is that users can get help instantly. There’s no waiting until Thursday for an appointment. MindRight is also accessible to those who can’t afford to skip work or take the time to get to an in-person appointment. While the volunteer coaches helping out are not therapists or doctors, they’re required to go through a training program and are able to give teens a sense of comfort and understanding at no charge.

MindRight partners with communities and schools in places like Washington, D.C., and Stockton, California. Since bad advice is certainly worse than no advice at all, MindRight’s coaching model is guided by clinical advisors at a Stanford Hospital.

Teens who use the program say it feels like texting a friend, and that it gives them a sense of connection. Simply having someone ask how you’re doing each day makes a big difference in a teen’s outlook.

Ashley and Alina were able to take their negative experiences from their youths and turn them into something positive for today’s kids. They’re revolutionizing the silence surrounding communities of color and mental health, and we’re here for it.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in how technology can be harmful for us. But tech entrepreneurs and app developers have found ways that technology can help us in a positive way. Check out these five websites and apps that will help steer you in the right direction by clicking here or heading over to if you're listening via podcast!


Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton said:

“The mental health of our children must be seen as every bit as important as their physical health.”

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