Peer support groups can be a useful crutch for people in need of empathy and social connection. But it is not always easy to find groups that meet the specific needs of individuals. Forum, a marketplace for peer support groups, aims to combat this problem after launch today with $5.3 million in seed funding.
“Peer support groups exist in some pockets and they are hard to find,” said Dr. Rajiv Kumar, CEO of Forum, in an interview. “They are often in person and it can be intimidating to show up without knowing who will be there. It may be inconvenient for you to find a group at the time and day you are available. By bringing them online and removing all geographic barriers, we believe we have the opportunity to really create these groups at scale.
Forum offers peer support groups on a range of topics including grief, loneliness, chronic illness, substance use, caregiving and relationships. The groups meet regularly by video, including once a week and every two weeks. They are also led by facilitators who often have experience in the thematic area of the support group. These facilitators are selected on the basis of their previous experience and undergo training from the Forum, according to Kumar.
The company initially targets consumers with its marketplace, and users are charged a monthly fee once they join a peer support group. However, the monthly rate differs depending on the group. As Forum begins to go direct to consumers, the startup aims to work with payers, employers and health systems in the future, Kumar said.
The $5.3 million funding was led by NextView Ventures and included participation from MBX Capital, Cue Ball Capital and City Light Capital. With this funding, the company is focused on “creating the most scalable approaches to adding peer groups to this market,” Lee Pichette, president of Forum, said in an interview.
The launch of the Forum comes at a time when approximately 17% of American adults, or 44 million people, live in solitude. This means there is something wrong with the way mental health is treated in the United States.
“Our behavioral health ecosystem is not good,” Kumar said. “It is not enough. It is not able to meet the demand. There is a shortage of mental health clinicians and mental health resources available to meet the needs of our society. Beyond This is not just a clinical problem. It’s a social problem. Our social fabric is fraying. We have far fewer connections than before.
Peppermint is another company that combats loneliness. spear in July and was built at Redesign Health, a healthcare innovation company. But unlike Forum, it focuses on older adults and connecting them to others through online clubs and workshops. Another company is Patients like me, which connects patients to others suffering from similar conditions. For those specifically looking for peer support groups, individuals typically go to Facebook groups, according to Kumar.
While Forum is starting in the United States, the company aims to expand globally in the future, Kumar added.
“We envision a future where people from all over the world and in different time zones can join the Forum and find a group of other people going through the exact same situation as them,” he said. “And it can be a group of people from many different countries coming together. I think this is something so special and missing in our society today.
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