Reshaping narratives: Trailblazing mental and behavioral health innovations

In conversation with:

  • Hana Walsh, CEO of OOTify 
  • Abhilash Pate, Co-founder and President of Within Health
  • Metta Sandiford-Artest, former Pro Basketball Player, partner of OODify, and mental health advocate

The integration of technology and technological advances into mental health care has helped thousands of people access the treatment they need by breaking down financial, geographical, and social barriers. However, some may argue that bringing technology into mental health care takes away from the human connection.

At the Within Summit 2023, Hana Walsh, Abhilash Patel, and Metta Sandiford-Artest sat down to discuss the impact of technological innovations on mental health care and how they can improve access to treatment. Plus, they delve into the role the community has to play in mental health and how we can work towards destigmatizing mental and behavioral health issues.

Technological innovations in mental health C=care

“I went to college for psychology…here’s a job a robot can’t steal…and now I’m developing robots to steal my job.”
- Hana Walsh

What is OOTify?

OOTify is a digital, research-backed companion that gathers and provides resources to help people navigate their mental health. With the aim to lift up and nurture sustainable human health, OOTify uses advanced technology, including AI architecture, data-driven matching, and interactive gamification, to guide clients to personalized, evidence-based mental health interventions.

How does OOTify work?

The OOTify app is there to support individuals every step of the way:

  • Centralized mental health hub: The mental health efforts of a client are streamlined in one place so they can track and manage their health for effective outcomes. By looking at clients as humans, the app provides interventions that speak to them.
  • AI-Powered concierge: Minimizing the stress for clients in finding the proper help, the AI-powered platform crafts personalized evidence-based care plans tailored to their unique needs.
  • Powering intrinsic motivators: The OOTify digital companion helps clients unlock their full potential and rewards them for their progress. In-game incentives add an element of fun while keeping clients accountable.

Accessible and inclusive, OOtify is there to:

  • Provide on-demand personalized mental health support for students
  • Offer high-quality, low-cost virtual support for every employee
  • Give hospitals clinical and sub-clinical support so patients can thrive 

Telehealth and remote care 

“Technology allows us to do things that were never thought possible.”
- Abhilash Patel 

Studies estimate that only 20% of those living with eating disorders can access traditional treatment.1 Treatment barriers include lack of inclusion, financial, cultural, and geographical barriers, long wait lists, weight and body bias, and more. 

Telehealth and remote care help to break down many of these barriers by providing effective treatment in the client’s home environment. However, there is a misconception that virtual treatment may not be as effective and extensive as in-person treatment. The research shows different.

A 2021 study found no difference in outcomes between in-person multidisciplinary eating disorder treatment and the same team-based care approach virtually. Both treatment groups recorded reduced eating disorder behaviors, improved mental well-being, positive weight outcomes, and fewer perfectionism traits at the time of discharge.2

Patient monitoring can also be done remotely. For example, at Within Health, nursing and physio checks can be done remotely, lab screens are done remotely with fast turnaround, and meals can be delivered to a client’s home for remote meal support and exposure therapy. Plus, Within Health also offers a wide range of individual and group therapies and family-based treatment delivered virtually. 

These virtual therapies are known to be effective. A 2023 study showed that virtual family-based therapy—delivered by a multidisciplinary team—resulted in:

  • 78% of clients reaching the required weight restoration
  • 50% reduction in eating disorder symptoms
  • Anxiety and depression symptoms shrinking by a third

While it’s true that remote and virtual treatment has a few disadvantages, such as it being easier for a client to exit treatment and difficulty in interrupting extreme disordered eating behaviors, it does have its advantages, including:

  • Making it easier to enter treatment, especially for those who have experienced “treatment trauma” in the past
  • Greater treatment accessibility for underserved populations, such as BIPOC, males, and transgender individuals
  • Interrupting the progression of eating disorders
  • Families finding it easier to be “together” in treatment
  • Less inclination toward learned behaviors

The role of community in mental and behavioral health 

“Community is key…it’s super important in guiding the youth…teenagers, and young adults.”
- Metta Sandiford-Artest

Community is critically important to mental health. Research has shown the incidence, prevalence, and prognosis of mental disorders are strongly linked to community factors.3 

The availability of mental health services in communities helps promote accessibility, acceptability, and affordability of services, encourage adherence to treatment, and increase the likelihood of better clinical outcomes.3

Furthermore, community services can help to promote mental health awareness, reduce stigma and discrimination, support recovery and inclusion, and prevent mental disorders.3

Hana sums it up quite nicely with the insight that the more supportive legal systems and various communities are about mental health concerns, the less the stigma and the better it will be for everyone. 

Destigmatizing mental and behavioral health issues

Metta offers his perspective on mental health in sports, remarking that “over the last 10 to 15 years in sports, things have changed.” Previously, in pro sports in the late 1990s, it was considered negative for an athlete to admit that they needed health, with the media adding to the stigmatization.

Since admitting his issues with mental health in 2010, Metta advocates for others to let them know that it’s okay to struggle with depression and anxiety and to open up about it. His mindset as an athlete and his desire to help fellow athletes and their families is what started Metta on his journey to becoming a mental health advocate. 

While high-profile admissions about struggles with mental health, like Metta's, are helping to change attitudes,  more needs to be done to tackle the stigma. So, what can we do to destigmatize mental and behavioral health issues? Our panelists offered some of their well-informed suggestions:

  • If you see someone struggling, reach out to them and let them know that you’re there to listen.
  • Be mindful of the language you use when discussing mental health.
  • Take a mental health fluency course, like the one available at OOTify, to help you better understand mental health and how to talk about it to others.
  • Share your own stories about mental health—it may be difficult, but it will help someone. 

Final messages of hope

As the conversation between our panelists drew to a close, they shared their final hopeful messages:

“Try to always have something to fall back on…something of substance. It could be going to the beach, going for walks in a forest, being around friends, meditation...Things to empower yourself with…Find something to fall back on when you need it.”
- Metta Sandiford-Artest
“People who overcome mental health battles are some of the strongest people out there…There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is bright. Very, very bright, and you will become a stronger person because of what you have overcome…I didn’t succeed in spite of my trauma; I succeeded because of it.”
- Hana Walsh
“Many of us [at Within Health] have lived experience…it’s going to be okay. We’ve been there; it does get better…You’re probably doing better than you think.”
- Abhilash Patel


  1. Steinberg, D., Perry, T., Freestone, D., Bohon, C., Baker, J. H., & Parks, P. (2023). Effectiveness of delivering evidence-based eating disorder treatment via telemedicine for children, adolescents, and youth. Eating Disorders, 31(1), 85-101.
  2. Levinson, C. A., Spoor, S. P., Keshishian, A. C., & Pruitt, A. (2021). Pilot outcomes from a multidisciplinary telehealth versus in-person intensive outpatient program for eating disorders during versus before the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(9), 1672–1679. 
  3. Kohrt, B. A., Asher, L., Bhardwaj, A., Fazel, M., Jordans, M. J. D., Mutamba, B. B., Nadkarni, A., Pedersen, G. A., Singla, D. R., & Patel, V. (2018). The Role of Communities in Mental Health Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Meta-Review of Components and Competencies. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(6), 1279.