Today I turn 40. 🥳
Yes, I know, I’m shocked, too. Someone this youthful and radiant couldn’t be a day over 27. Or 33. It’s my moisturizer, don’t tell anyone. 🤫😆
On this big day, I’m sharing my birthday present with you! But first, let me share something personal. Hold on, it’s kinda long but important. If you need a tl;dr, jump to the 🎁.
For most of my life, I’ve dealt with depression, anxiety, and addiction. The voices in my head, the constant nagging, and rumination seemed to only be quieted by the dopamine kick gained from consuming unnatural amounts of shitty food and alcohol. I literally couldn’t stop thinking about moist gooey chocolate chip cookies and soft buttery pound cake, searching desperately for that fleeting moment of respite when I shoved them in my mouth. I couldn’t wait for the moment when the kids were in bed so I could take a quenching gulp of Maker’s Mark and Coke Zero and finally relax.
From the outside, everything has always looked peachy. I had a loving boyfriend → husband, zero → one → two cute kids, interesting life experiences, a unique career trajectory, and mad skillz. But few saw my true unhappiness. Hell, I didn’t even see it until everything was spiraling out of control.
I tried antidepressants and psychotherapy, both important to giving me the space I needed to come to terms with and start exploring the root causes of my mental illness, but I was far from being whole.
In 2017, my 3XL Uniqlo t-shirts were becoming too tight, and they didn’t make 4XL. That’s surely discrimination! After tipping the scales above 300lbs / 136kgs and having hit rock bottom three times in the past two years, I knew something had to be done. I started reading about, then studying non-mainstreamed approaches to achieving mental wellness. I began slowly incorporating good nutrition and meditation into my daily life. I had a transformational psychedelic experience and began exercising regularly. Slowly, I saw the weight drop and the joy of living return!
I’ve continued these life enhancements for 1.5 years, and although not every day is a good day, I now find myself mentally, emotionally, and physically fitter than I’ve ever been before. Some 100lbs / 45kgs lighter, I ran my first – and probably last – half marathon in October!
As I was able to not just focus on me, I started to look around; I knew I couldn’t be the only one dealing with these issues. Sure, mental illness runs deep in my family and I have friends who struggled with it in the past, but I was shocked at the pervasiveness, scale, and impact of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, and eating disorders.
Holy Shit! The unrealized potential and inability to meaningfully contribute to society for so many millions (billions?) of people are gut-wrenching. And what about their mental illness’ effect on their loved ones? But we’re just now slowly starting to hear more about mental health in our daily lives.
Mental illness is a silent and often-taboo epidemic.
At the same time, I started looking into what already exists in non-mainstream and multi-faceted approaches to achieving mental wellness. I was heartened to see that there is a fast-growing number of people and organizations working to make mental wellness matter. For example, the digital behavior change market, including meditation apps and tele-therapy, is a growing $22 billion industry, focused primarily on economically advantaged countries. And The workplace wellness market is expected to be $66 billion by 2022.
Every $1 invested in mental health produces an estimated $3 – $5 social and economic return.
Thanks for sticking with all that deep, hairy stuff, cause now it’s time to party!
Today, I share with you my birthday present, the launch of Masawa, a social impact fund for innovative mental wellness. 🎉👯♂️🎊
Okay, I know what you’re saying “those are a lot of emboldened words, there, Joshua,” so let’s break it down:
Masawa: might sound familiar, Masawa is derived from the Arabic word المساواة (al-musawa) meaning ‘equality’ or ‘evenness’.
A social impact fund is a financial vehicle that invests in people and organizations with the expectation of generating measurable and beneficial social returns alongside financial returns. Masawa invests not only in capital (equity, debt, revenue-based financing, etc.), we invest in much-needed destigmatizing dialogue and clinical research.
Innovative mental wellness is the belief that everyone’s journey to achieving mental wellness is different and often multi-model. Masawa invest in people and organizations catalyzing mental wellness in areas like nutrition, exercise, meditation, yoga, psychedelics, community, and workplace wellness.
Masawa also provides organizations with non-financial assistance, including access to experts in areas like marketing, communications, design, digital product development, coaching, and organizational development.
I’m not so crazy as to think that I can do all this by myself. There are only 26 hours in the day and I alone don’t have all the requisite skills to make Masawa an impactful success. I also have to make sure I maintain my own mental wellness throughout this process.
I’ve put together an advisory group consisting of experts in finance, startup investing, psychiatry, nutrition, organizational development, coaching, communications, sustainability, and board governance.
We’re fundraising the working capital (initial funds) needed to build up the organization, and will continue to identify innovative people and organizations who could benefit from investment and find the right investors to contribute to the first Masawa fund, which is €25 million. (That seems like a lot, but it’s 0.0004% of the estimated cost of mental illness by 2030, a bargain!)
There are a number of ways you can get involved.
Finally, please have at least one casual (non-therapy-ish) conversation about mental health with someone. Until we’re all comfortable speaking about it in general, and become able to relate our own relevant experiences, mental illness will remain a silent and taboo epidemic.
Thanks for making it this far through this email and for being a part of my journey. Together, we can work to ensure that others’ are filled with love, compassion, and hope, as they make their way to finding mental wellness.
Take care of each other,
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