H-Town Run Tourist's Honorable Mention

How this Houstonian created a website that is Match.com for mental health

Courtesy of Ryan Schwartz

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Have I told you how much I love writing for SportsMap and Fred for letting me be me? This week, I met with this exceptional Houstonian that I had to give him an honorable mention. Meet Ryan Schwartz (picture above). He is the creator of Mental Health Match, a website like Match.com, where people can choose the therapists that fits them perfectly. Having had both positive and negative experiences with his own therapists, he wanted to develop a site with the client in mind. He wanted to make it easy and confidential. It is the perfect way to finish my mental health series. Ryan and I chatted over calamari and shrimp and avocado toast so that I could learn more about Mental Health Match.

Here is some background: After the sudden death of his mother, Ryan looked for a therapist to help him cope with the transition. He was surprised that it took him a big effort to find the perfect fit. He had friends get so frustrated with their therapist search, he knew it had to be a pain point for more people. This is what led him to get the idea for Mental Health Match. With his background in communications and research for nonprofits for social change and a passion to help people, he knew he was more than qualified to pioneer this effort.

So, what did Ryan have to do to bring Mental Health Match to Houstonians?

First, I interviewed 50 people who were looking for a therapist. I then contacted a number of friends to refer one of their friends in a different city to me to be interviewed. I cold called about 20 therapists with questions. From all those conversations, I made a first draft of the webpage and after a lot of testing began making the website.

So, how does Mental Health Match work?

It is a free service that connects you with the therapists who is best for you. You take a 5 minute survey. We ask about your goals for therapy, what type of activities you are interested in. We match you by your location, how much you want to spend, your insurance, personality traits and styles you prefer.

Nothing like rock climbing to get over life's obstacles.

Pixabay.com

What are the different styles of therapy? What's the most unique?

You can do therapeutic yoga. You can take a walk with your therapist. One of therapist that I have interviewed offers rock climbing therapy.

What a practical way to get through life's obstacles by physically experience those obstacles on a rock climbing wall.

Do you recommend an affordable therapists over an expensive one or are they the same to you?

Therapists who are expensive have specialized experience. Such as? If a client needs therapy for a childhood trauma as well as an eating disorder, then go the more expensive therapist. If you need therapy for general depression, then a more affordable therapist will work just as well.

How many therapists do you have currently on Mental Health Match? 140.

What does it take for a therapist to get listed on Mental Health Match?

Right now, any therapist can sign up for free. We have to validate their license as well.

How did you get them? Many of the therapists have been telling their friends and colleagues.

What type of person uses Mental Health Match?

All kinds. All ages. All genders. It's very diverse.

What is their main concern?

Anxiety and relationships.

What do you do to stay up to date on psychiatry to keep the site up-to-date?

I sit down every week with my therapists to keep up-to-date.

Nothing to be afraid of. Having a therapist is just like putting on a safety harness before dealing with hard emotions.

Pixabay.com

I remember back in the 80's, if you said that someone had a chemical imbalance, it was like, keep that person sedated. We didn't even know what those chemicals were. Now, words like, serotonin, melatonin, oxytocin, and dopamine are in everyday conversation. What, do you think, has changed in the field of mental health? What have they done to eradicate the stigma of mental health?

We have had so many improvements. A big help is when high profile people talk about their mental health and how they sought therapy. People like Jay-Z, Common, Howard Stern, and professional athletes have admitted to being mental health recipients.

So, with sites like Facebook, there is a concern for privacy. This is a super sensitive topic anyway. How does Mental Health Match protect the clients privacy?

Its all anonymous. We never store anything that can be traced back to the client. We use several security measures to avoid being hacked.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about getting a therapist?

We would have a conversation about what they are afraid of or why they are worried. I would put heavy emphasis on the circumstances and the stresses of today, not on them.

What if they REALLY don't want to go?

I would remind them that they deserve it and that they are worth it.

Well said. By the way, I'm stealing that last part. "On belay!" "Belay on."

Join me at Uncle Bean's Coffee at 8am on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 for our inaugural H-Town Run Tourist Social Running Club. Runners, walkers, strollers, and dogs are welcome to explore Woodland Heights and White Oak. Contact me at info@tourismgymhtx.com for more details.


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College football needs to call a timeout on the 2020 season.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are set to announce, maybe today, perhaps in a few weeks, whether they will play football this fall.

Already the Ivy League, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference have canceled their fall football season for health and safety reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Power 5 conferences – the Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference – should get onboard and put their football seasons on hold, too.

While some elected officials without medical degrees say that coronavirus amounts to little more than sniffles for young people, healthcare experts argue that college-age people, while they do recover quickly and may not exhibit symptoms, do contract and spread the virus.

There has been a 90 percent increase of young people testing positive for the virus in the past four weeks. More important, health experts say they can't measure the long-term effects of the virus, which may include brain damage, heart disease and reduced lung capacity.

There is a simple solution to play or not play college football this fall – postpone the season to next spring, when health experts will know more about the disease. There possibly could be a vaccine by then, which would allow fans back in stadiums.

Many high-profile college players and coaches weighed in on the debate Monday, almost unanimously saying that the 2020 football schedule should be played on schedule, starting in a few weeks.

Players, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, adopted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. In a tweet, Lawrence said that players would be more at risk for coronavirus if the fall season doesn't move forward. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football."

Lawrence added that, if the football season is canceled or postponed, players "will be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely."

Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN, "Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home."

Two points: University presidents should listen to only one group of people – healthcare professionals – when they decide whether to cancel or postpone the fall football season. Yes, players want to play during this pandemic. But players also want to play when they are injured or their brain was just scrambled by a vicious tackle. We applaud athletes who play with a broken leg. We see players with concussions plead with their coaches to put them back in the game.

As for the argument that players are more likely to catch the virus if they're sent home – who's sending them home? These are student-athletes. Students. Most college campuses will be open with students attending classes this fall. Major college programs like Clemson have 85 full scholarships designated for football. Colleges won't take away players' scholarships if the football season is canceled. Clemson's campus will open Sept. 21 for in-person classes.

ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy also said the season should be played as scheduled: "If they're (players) OK, then I'm OK." Texas governor Greg Abbott chimed in on the players' side. He said, "It's their careers, it's their health."

What "careers" is he talking about? There are about 775 colleges that play football. Only 1.7 percent of all those players will play in the NFL or another professional league. On Sept. 3, Rice University will play Army. It is unlikely that any of those players will have a career in football. However, given the excellence of academics at those colleges, players will have career opportunities in something other than football. The average NFL career is 2-1/2 years. Rice and Army grads can top that.

The NBA is completing its season in a bubble in Orlando, with players confined to their hotels between games. Only 22 teams are in Orlando for the lockdown. The Rockets organization sent about 35 people, including coaches, players and essential personnel to Orlando.

Baseball is playing its season outside a bubble. So many players are testing positive for coronavirus that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last week threatened to end the season if teams don't do a better job of enforcing the league's health protocol. What's left is an unbalanced season. For example, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners have played 18 games, while the St. Louis Cardinals have played only five games. The ironically first-place Miami Marlins, which had 18 players test positive, have played only 10 games.

College football can't be played in a bubble. There are too many teams, with some having more than 100 players and 20 coaches. And no sport thrives on fans' excitement and marching bands like college football. Several colleges, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M, have stadiums that hold more than 100,000 fans. Even if college football could be played in a bubble, it would require isolating players from August to January, when they're supposed to be in class. I know … supposed.

This one is easy. For the health and safety of players, play the fall 2020 season in spring 2021.

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