Many popular YouTube personalities are facing intense criticism for making a deal with an app that connects users to mental health counselors, particularly as it has come to light that the YouTubers receive commissions from the company. As the app has become embroiled in controversy, the YouTubers are being criticized for toying with sensitive mental health issues.
The app, BetterHelp, offers to connect users to mental health counselors for a weekly fee, designed to make access to help for mental health issues easier and more convenient. The app has recently come under intense scrutiny after it was found in their terms and conditions that the company does not verify or guarantee the qualifications of any counselor on the app (this language was removed on October 4). Further issues include difficulty accessing a therapist and the potential that the company could sell user data. Alon Matas, BetterHelp's founder, has claimed that all therapists and counselors on the platform pass a check with the company that includes verifying proper licensure and passing an exam and that no data is sold, referring to the aforementioned passages in the terms and conditions as "standard legalese."
Nonetheless, the firestorm against the YouTubers has continued, as many feel they are feigning sincere concern for serious mental health conditions for a quick buck. And the commission is not small change: according to Affiliate Paying, each referral earns the YouTuber a $100 kickback.
I've noticed the plugs for BetterHelp on some of my favorite YouTube channels, and I have to admit that it made me uncomfortable to hear someone with no training in mental health and no confirmed experience with the app promoting it, even worse when they obviously shoehorned it into a video that had absolutely nothing to do with the topic. I understand that YouTubers have bills to pay, and I love that anyone with the talent and drive can bring in income via the platform and sponsorships, which is why it never bothers me when my favorite YouTubers have a quick Squarespace ad in a video; in fact, I'm normally happy for them, because it's a sign of their success. But where you build and host a website is quite innocuous as compared to where you seek help for serious mental conditions, and taking advantage of the mental well-being of your audience (particularly those who might be the most vulnerable) to get a kickback for doing so seems pretty inappropriate. Monetizing conditions like depression in this fashion is a very dangerous and morally questionable thing to do.
Lead image by Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.