Mental Health — The Time is Now

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It is the culmination of my personal experiences, learnings, and observations that has led to my deep interest in mental health.

A few years ago, a coworker pulled me aside to share that we, Uber employees, get access to affordable therapy, and encouraged me to explore it. I looked at her, perplexed, and asked “why would I go to therapy?” Later that night, I realized my response was driven by the stigma around mental health, and I had been taught to view therapy as a last resort for those who suffer from serious mental conditions. Curious to challenge that assumption, I decided to give it a shot.

Two years and almost 100 therapy sessions later, I fervently stand behind the notion that every human being can benefit from a little guidance. I’ve noticed numerous internal and external changes: I have never felt more empowered in my career, my relationship with my family is closer than ever, and I’ve never been more grateful for my partner. I’m not a brand new person — I’m still the Laura that I was two years ago, but I feel lighter, freer, and more empowered to tackle the big questions: What is important to me? How do I want to spend my time? What does the future hold? What is my purpose?

My weekly hour of therapy was my time to “exercise my mind,” and I truly looked forward to those hours. It made me wonder — why are we significantly more open to investing in our physical health than we are our mental health? I predict that in the next 5 years, “exercising our minds” will be as foundational as exercising and visiting the doctor are today.

I’ve been open with my coworkers, friends and family about my journey with therapy, as I hoped they could benefit from it as well. To my dismay, I found that therapy is unaffordable and inaccessible to most people. Not only is the cost high ($100-$500 an hour in the Bay Area), ~60% of therapists do not take insurance as insurance companies negotiate discounted rates with providers. With ~80% of the working class living paycheck to paycheck, mental health assistance is unattainable to those who need it the most.

Furthermore, reading “The Lost Connections” by Johann Hari illuminated a challenging dynamic in the industry. We (doctors, big pharma, society) have been educating people that their depression is a “disease” caused by low levels of serotonin. Little did I know, the scientific evidence for this claim is lacking, and the long-term efficacy of the common drugs used to treat depression is weak. Teaching people that their condition is due primarily to their biology and can only be cured by ever-increasing dosages of drugs is disempowering. It strips away their hope that they can help themselves. Contrary to what patients have been told, Hari states that there are real, actionable methods through which individuals can improve their mental states, such as finding meaningful work and community, securing a stable income, focusing on intrinsic goals, overcoming childhood trauma, and spending time in nature.

I hope for a world in which every individual is empowered with a toolkit to lift themselves out of challenging times. Let’s invest in “exercising our minds” just as much as we exercise our bodies, encourage one another, and play a role in destigmatizing the industry. Trust me, the world will be a better place once we make it more accessible, affordable, and acceptable to seek a little guidance. Now is the time to invest in America’s mental health.

Some books/articles that have piqued my interest:

Some Companies I’m following:

Written by

Product @ Spring Health; Ex - Product @ Uber. Equal parts 🇨🇳🇬🇧🇺🇸. Happiest when learning, traveling, and eating.

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