Expert alarmed by quick sessions of the mental health app and qualifications of Cerebral prescribers

More and more users of Cerebral, one of the largest online mental health providers, report having problems with the quality of Cerebral’s care.

In June, CBS News reported as some users were concerned on how the startup was treating people for conditions like depression and ADHD.

Since then, CBS News has heard more patients and employees concerned about how Cerebral diagnoses and prescribes drugs.

One woman told CBS News consumer investigation correspondent Anna Werner that she had long suffered from severe depression due to sexual trauma in her youth.

She said she struggled to pay for the therapy and was drawn to Cerebral after seeing their social media ads offering fast and affordable mental health care.

“I honestly thought I was signing up for something that would change my life in a good way,” said the woman who asked to be called Yvette.

After joining, Yvette said she passed a brief evaluation and was paired with a prescriber. Yvette she says that in her first appointment of about 15 minutes with a brain prescriber she was prescribed three drugs and in a second, equally short appointment, she was given two more drugs.

But she says her symptoms have worsened. Yvette said she contacted her brain prescriber again to tell her she had nightmares about hanging herself, but she said she got blown away on a short date.

“I was scared and when I contacted her and I was just crying with her because I didn’t know what to do, she said, ‘I don’t have enough time. I have to go to the other date. I’ have spent enough time with you already, ‘” she remembered Yvette.

The next day, a family member found her hanging on a dog’s leash in her bathroom.

Yvette said she doesn’t remember anything about the accident and that she thought she was “dreaming”.

After attempting to take her own life, Yvette was hospitalized and says she underwent a lengthy evaluation with a new doctor who changed her medications.

She said her new doctor was confused about the medications Cerebral prescribed for her.

“Every time he got the list of meds I was taking, he would say, ‘I don’t understand why they should put you on this,'” Yvette said.

Clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University and president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz, said he wouldn’t feel comfortable diagnosing someone in 15 minutes.

“It takes more than 15 minutes to understand someone’s life story. Diagnoses must be made in context,” Sulkowicz said.

“Psychological diagnoses are almost, by definition, much more complex. And it requires obtaining a medical, psychological and social history. Just having that kind of conversation takes more than 15 minutes,” Sulkowicz added.

In June, Cerebral CEO Dr. David Mou told CBS News that the company’s overall results are positive.

“I invite my close friends, my family, to use Cerebral,” Mou said. “And I’d say it’s important to see the other side of the story as well, which is the … the vast majority of our cases where we’re changing lives, we’re reducing suicidal thinking.”

But a CBS News review of the more than 1,500 prescribers of Cerebral, listed on its website, found that only five are board-certified psychiatrists. Most – about three-quarters of Cerebral prescribers – are professional nurses with specialties outside of mental health.

And an internal log obtained by CBS News shows that Cerebral staff have reported at least 280 cases in which a patient was prescribed “5+ drugs”.

Sulkowicz said he found it “quite alarming”.

“Diagnosing mental illness is a tricky business. There is a reason why it takes years of training,” he said. “These are serious drugs we are talking about. These things are not to be prescribed or taken lightly.”

Cerebral declined to answer specific questions from CBS News about Yvette’s case.

In a statement, the company said:

“Brain clinicians are at the forefront of our country’s mental health crisis every day by treating patients in need, many of whom would not have been able to access quality mental health care before the emergence of telemedicine companies. that our clinical standards meet and exceed those of many traditional traditional facilities, and our physicians have access to more tools and capabilities than many of their counterparts who work in physical locations.Our highly skilled credentials team led by two medical directors, who are psychiatrists, and includes four senior clinical executives who are professional nurses, oversee all of our hiring and professional development of physicians who deal with patients. Under our new CEO, Dr. David Mou, we have redoubled our focus on clinical quality and safety and we believe that telemedicine has the potential for pe r democratize access to mental health care that has traditionally been inaccessible to many people in need “.


If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Just call or text 988. For more resources, please click here.


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