By Shannon Traphagen

When it comes to mental health, a fear of judgement, comparing our problems to those of others, and a perceived weakness stops many of us from seeking help. We tend to shy away from whatever makes us uncomfortable. But, we need to lean into discomfort, and not run from it.

I am an advocate for mental health counseling because it has helped me. I didn’t waste much time in seeking counseling after my husband’s death from brain cancer. We all need extra emotional support occasionally, and one young man is trying to offer that support to today’s youth.

Cody Semrau is the founder of Better Mynd, a teletherapy Zoom platform that connects college students with online counseling and psychological services. Having struggled with his own mental health issues, Semrau knew there was a gap in support for college students. “I was suffering with severe anxiety and depression, but I was embarrassed to go to the counseling center. You walk into that building and everyone knows what you’re there for,” said Semrau.

Fighting back the embarrassment and stigma he knew would come with it, Semrau received counseling, graduated, and moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked in the corporate world for three years. However, during that time, an idea was percolating — how to offer accessible and private counseling to college students. Semrau’s idea gave rise to Better Mynd, and it brought him home to Western New York.

“Before the pandemic, there was pushback from counseling centers. They thought a platform like Better Mynd would take away their jobs. However, since the pandemic, it’s really opened the door to a great partnership because they see the advantages of online video therapy. They realize that we can help each other reach more students and give them the support they need without alienating the work that counselors do in person.” The partnership means that students can receive counseling as soon as 48 hours after registering with Better Mynd.

“Once we connect with a college, they add us to their website portals with a hyperlink to Better Mynd, so students are taken directly to our website. Once a student logs in with their college email, the college’s logo shows up immediately for that school, students fill out a profile, and are matched with a licensed counselor that fits their needs.” Semrau stresses that what sets them apart from other online therapy programs is their direct link to colleges as a collaborative partner with campus counseling centers.

Semrau’s interest in the 43 North competition was immediate, “Once we started growing, I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring. I didn’t expect that we’d win $500,000. It’s really helped bring credibility to the work we do and our mission to help today’s youth.”

Recently, Better Mynd launched group sessions for LGBTQ, anxiety, and substance use. Regarding future plans for Better Mynd, Semrau says, “We want to reach more youth over the next few years by expanding into middle and high schools.” Learn more about Better Mynd at