The past year has served to highlight the fragility of how society supports mental health, and how critical it is to our very existence. Those who have seen the statistics will know that the picture of the future they portray is not rosy. Pre-pandemic WHO estimates stated that mental health disorders would cost the global economy $16 trillion in terms of lost productivity by 2030, and that 1 in 5 people worldwide were set to develop a mental health condition over the course of their lifetimes. While such predictions convey a sense of urgency and the need to take immediate action, they can also feel overwhelming and disheartening, as if all has already been lost.
Part of what makes us human is our fascination with the future and the predictions we make about it. Many authors, politicians, future tellers, and businessmen have garnered prestige because of their supposedly unique ability to foresee future events, but most fail miserably. It seems there is a distinction between predicting the future and envisioning the future you wish to call into being.
In his 2019 book ‘Human Kind,’ Dutch historian Rutger Bregman writes: “What we believe, is what we become. What we seek, is what we find. What we predict, is what happens.” This is what sociologists refer to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough people believe in a vision of the future, the possibility of it becoming a reality (and becoming a de facto prediction) is imminent.
Envisioning the future, therefore, comes with responsibility. Accepting that responsibility means daring to imagine the future, with beauty and optimism, and taking an active role in shaping it. A rapidly growing number of startups are doing exactly that by addressing the mental health crisis with evidence-based, innovative solutions. Numerous startups have begun tapping into the rich potential of new technologies such as AI and digital therapeutics, which are fundamentally shifting how we access, and who accesses mental health services. We are also starting to see a much-needed shift in the way we approach mental health — from an emphasis on treating mental illness to promoting mental wellness through the development of psychological abilities and emotional resilience.
At Masawa we’re investing to create the workplace of the future. This future will be one that rebalances what we value and where employees are able to thrive as whole human beings. Leaders embrace humility, show sincere openness to talking about their personal experiences with mental health, and invite others to do the same. As a society, we continually question our own worldviews and biases to learn how they affect the wellbeing of others and our planet. In this world of holistic mental wellness, the stigma surrounding mental health will continue to dissipate through advocacy, education, and increasing our capacity to live and lead with vulnerability and emotional intelligence.
Whether you’re an investor, startup founder, mental healthcare practitioner, or advocate, we all have stakes in envisioning the future of mental health. Let’s imagine it together, so that we can be guided by a common vision and start realizing it today. Are you with us?
Learn more about Masawa’s vision for the future of mental health and the role it sees itself taking on to realize it by following the blog and joining the conversation. We’re open to ecosystem collaborations that have the potential to more effectively achieve our vision of creating a world where mental wellness and prosperity are accessible to all.
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