Mental Wellness Will Become As Big As Physical Health
20 years ago, when I first immigrated to the U.S. in the early 2000s, most Americans were still eating unhealthy food. In the late 2000s and into the 2010s, America went through a health transformation. Today, most of my friends will only dine in “farm to table” restaurants. Food businesses can instantly command a premium if they just attach “organic” to whatever dish/drink they are selling.
In 2012, Peloton was founded, offering people their gym experience in their own homes. Now, COVID has further highlighted people’s desire for physical health. Peloton’s profits tripled while its stock increased by ~7x this year. Despite not being able to attend physical gyms, people are still going to “virtual gyms.” This is just another indicator of how big physical health has become as a business sector.
At Flourish, we believe that mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health, and that In 10 years, mental and emotional wellness will become normalized and accepted by mainstream consumers just like physical health.
COVID has accelerated this normalization of mental health. Recently, California passed a law that seeks to give its residents greater mental health access. Like many other things, California tends to set the cultural trend for the rest of America. We believe other state governments will follow suit relatively soon.
Just like Peloton is becoming the digital infrastructure of physical health, we are building an infrastructure company to support the rising popularity of mental and emotional health. So far, digital mental health startups tend to focus on the clinical realm by connecting clinicians with patients. This clinician/patient approach is constrained by an imbalance between demand of patients (~50M of them in the U.S.) and supply of clinicians (~150K). It is not too surprising that many existing mental health startups have not taken off because they can’t find enough clinicians to join their platform. In contrast, consumer-facing, non-clinical apps like Calm and Headspace are growing like wildflowers. Both have multi-million paid subscribers and are reimbursed by major insurance companies. So why do these two meditation apps stand out?
First of all, meditation is non-clinical and therefore is not bound by the supply of human clinicians. Meditation is also a solitary exercise with a guiding voice. Thus, the pre-recorded content on a phone works just as well as if it was delivered live. Last but not least, meditation is effective. I have been practicing meditation/prayers ever since the mid-2000s. Prayerful contemplation has been a consistent daily practice of mine. I actually feel off on days when I don’t take the time to pray and meditate.
Meditation is just a small aspect of the exercises and tools available to enhance an individual’s mental wellness. There are others like cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, acceptance, and commitment therapy. Right now, these tools are scattered and seem mysterious to the average consumer. What if we at Flourish Tech take the high ground and come up with a unifying mental wellness methodology that appeals to the mass consumer market?
To return to the analogy of physical health, when I first came to America in the 2000s, I had no idea what MetCon (Metabolic conditioning), Crossfit, or Keto diet meant. Also, how about riding a stationary bicycle with others in a room with someone shouting to keep you motivated (nvm riding a bike and staring at a screen)? That just sounded so lame! Yet SoulCycle and Peloton became big businesses by repackaging physical training in a consumer-friendly way.
At Flourish, we have the opportunity to repackage time-tested tools in psychiatry and psychology in a consumer-friendly way. With this grand vision in mind, we are starting with a scientifically-grounded, clinician-lead empathy training product.
Empathy is the foundation for deep human relationships. Satisfying relationships are a pillar of mental health. Even though empathy is natural for some, for many, including me, empathy is a learned skill. In fact, the best therapists and psychiatrists are excellent at establishing an empathic connection with their patients. Stanford professor David Burns codified the methodology of how to be empathic with the “5 Secrets of Communication,” which is the conceptual framework for our product.
If we can execute according to our plan, we will become the world’s best platform for helping families, friends, and colleagues achieve mental flourishing. Imagine what the world could look like if we all became more empathic toward one another?