Masawa Minute 45
Let’s Nurture Capital | Opportunities to Build for Wellbeing | + More!
This is the Masawa Minute — mental wellness, social impact, and impact investing snippets from what we’ve read the last two weeks + where you can get active.
In this week’s newsletter, you’ll find a lot of content revolving around investing in wellbeing on a larger scale, such as building healthier cities, innovating mental health, or making choices for a more sustainable future. We hope you enjoy it and learn something new!
We all want a sustainable future, but let’s be honest: that’s not gonna happen unless the people catalyzing the transformation are first mentally well. We have two specific things to offer to help you + your team + your portfolios (or all three!) become more well.
Nurture Capital Thought Starter: you’re wasting capital if you’re not nurturing capital. Given the interest in Masawa’s approach to focusing on the human factor, we put together this short paper that highlights the business and social needs for nurturing capital (focus on maximizing social impact, founder wellbeing, and organizational health), our framework, and a host of outstanding questions.
In order to open up and dig a little deeper, we’re hosting a Nurture Capital Salon on Tuesday, 28 September, to begin the discussions around what’s missing, needed, and possible, when returning to a focus on the human factor.
Simply, if we don’t address the human factor in how we create value, we’re missing out on significant impact opportunities.
CU*i x Masawa
And one concrete (not just yappity-yappity!) way to begin nurturing your capital is by joining the CU*i x Masawa learning journey that helps improve your organizational health and resilience through self-inquiry and deep dialogue. Check out this quick snippet with Stefan Kleineikenscheidt, founder of the tech firm K15t, about how his organization has already greatly benefited from the journey!
More info on the CU*i x Masawa program, including two more teaser sessions is found in the link you just whizzed past!
Many of us are familiar with languishing — this sense of stagnation and emptiness. Next to that, our daily routines and responsibilities often make genuine joy and happiness seem like a difficult task to achieve. If it sounds familiar — this webinar is for you!
On September 20th, 8 am PT / 11 am ET / 5 pm CET Lisa W. Coyne, Ph.D., will share insights about positive psychology and teach us to handle unexpected stressors better. She will also provide some tools and tips from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and answer all the questions you might have about how to lead a happier life, one day at a time. Don’t miss it!
What we’re reading…
🌇 Masawa Special: First steps towards healthier cities
This article is Part III in Masawa’s Building for Mental Wellness: A Case for MIndful Cities series. If you’ve somehow missed the previous ones, don’t worry — you can find them on our blog. As for this one, we discuss how the goal of living in a city that supports our wellbeing can be achieved. The newest advancements in research about our wellbeing and emotions seldom reach the people who plan and build our environments. We are taking some steps forward — significant investments are made to design healthcare facilities in a way that best supports recovery, but it ends there. How can we scale this approach to the wider environment in order to fully understand people’s lived experiences and propose suitable solutions? What is really needed to start building for wellbeing?
To be able to propose effective changes, we need to learn how people relate to their environments. First, there’s subjective wellbeing that can be examined in relation to urban spaces. This term, widely known as emotional states, refers to how people experience their lives from their perspective, varying over time and place. It can be recorded with the help of questionnaires, diary entries, prompts and other methods that allow for self-reflection in real-time. Such an approach allows the population to share what’s important to them and provides an insight into how they perceive their wellbeing in regard to their environment. Then there’s objective measuring — it can be done with the help of technology such as wristbands, eye-tracking devices, or EEG headbands, which make it possible to capture a range of biomarkers. As the name suggests, these allow for an objective examination of how the city residents react to their surroundings. While these technologies applied in existing studies have confirmed significant restorative effects of green spaces and the detrimental impact of overstimulation in cities, we hope that in the future, such innovations can be utilized to inform urban design and assist in transformative change.
Another important step towards healthier cities is overcoming the existing barriers. However, so far, few studies have paid attention to potential solutions. The Royal Town Planning Institute stepped up to fill the gap by conducting a large research study, which underlined the importance of a few key factors needed to bring change and take action: utilizing digital innovation, engaging the communities, and supporting cross-sector collaboration. To best adapt to people’s needs, the planning process must include residents’ experiences and opinions, which can be done by employing a quantitative approach to measure wellbeing. Through partnerships with urban planners and policymakers, the design could become better informed of the human experience and continuously improve the connection between spaces and their inhabitants. As our current environments fail to meet our needs, we need to develop cross-sectional connections — joining forces will allow us to deepen our understanding of people-place interactions and develop a systems approach to drive interventions to improve our urban spaces. It’s time for us to start building differently, build mindfully, look beyond traditional efficiency measures, and leverage science and innovation. It’s time to start building for wellbeing.
🌿 Saving climate will save our health
Time is ticking, and there are less than two months to go until COP26, the next annual UN climate change conference. The conference this year is more important than ever — just in August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an assessment report sharing irrefutable evidence that acting now is critical, as many consequences of climate warming are already irreversible and we’re dangerously close to exceeding the threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels of global heating. However, the conference outcomes aren’t only important to the climate crisis — the proposed solutions will also impact our health directly. The newly formed Health and Climate network calls upon leaders to make decisions that can guide their nations and the world into a sustainable, resilient, healthy future. So what needs to be done?
The first suggestion is to shift to sustainable food production and healthy diets. Poor diet has undeniable health effects and is among the leading drivers of many health problems, such as heart attack, stroke or diabetes. Next to that, poor diets can play a role in mental health, often exacerbating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Food systems are also to blame for 20–35% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. A shift from resource-intensive industrial farming to more sustainable practices like agroecology, organic farming, and indigenous farming traditions is essential to benefit the climate and improve our diets.
Another step is turning to carbon-free renewable energy. Burning fossil fuels in energy production is incredibly detrimental to the environment (it’s responsible for nearly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions) and is a major source of air pollution. Air pollution significantly affects our health, and even small increases are linked to rising depression and anxiety. Leaving that behind will greatly benefit the climate, economy, and human health. Relatedly, transportation is also an area that must be overhauled. It is critical to mobility, trade, access to goods, services and employment. It’s also linked to 24% of direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use. Besides air pollution, modern transport systems negatively impact our health through traffic injuries, deaths and health risks associated with physical inactivity such as obesity — governments need to prioritize walking, cycling and clean public transport in infrastructure and planning decisions.
Finally, it’s time for us to turn to resilient health systems. Climate change directly affects healthcare provision worldwide — often, already limited services are cut off due to various natural disasters. However, current healthcare systems account for 4.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Our health systems need to become more sustainable and resilient to be able to help people in need without negatively affecting the environment. We need to act now — and the World Health Organization has shown that the health gains from achieving the climate targets set in the Paris agreement would more than cover the financial cost of climate mitigation at the global level. It’s time to invest in wellbeing and move towards a healthier, more sustainable future.
📱 TikTok launches new measures to support its users’ wellbeing
Just yesterday, TikTok, a popular social media platform, announced some new tactics to educate its users about how social media can negatively affect their mental health. As part of these changes, the platform is introducing a “well-being guide” in its Safety Center, some info on eating disorders and body image, expanded search interventions and opt-in viewing screens on potentially triggering searches. The wellbeing guide, developed in collaboration with multiple mental health-focused organizations, offers advice for people sharing their own mental health stories on TikTok, encouraging them to reflect on their decision, as well as suggestions on what to do after uploading the video. The eating disorder page offers advice to people who might be dealing with such concerns.
It isn’t TikTok’s first effort to improve their users’ mental wellbeing and help them if they’re experiencing distress — it already directs users to local resources if they search for certain words or phrases. But now, it will also share content from creators with the intention of helping someone going through a tough time. Next to that, if someone were to enter a potentially triggering search phase, the content would be blurred out, and the users would have to opt-in. These changes arrive as Instagram comes under fire after Facebook’s research on the harm the social platform poses for teen girls was leaked by the Wall Street Journal. In one instance, a 19-year-old told The Wall Street Journal that her explore page has been flooded with weight loss photos and tips after searching for workout ideas. Angela Guarda, director for the eating-disorders program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, also shared that many of her patients learned about dangerous weight loss methods on social media.
While it’s good to see such companies invest in their users’ mental wellbeing, all this poses a bigger question: is social media bad for us? There’s no clear answer. For instance, TikTok helping people share their mental health stories proves that social media can be a positive resource. This will allow a number of people dealing with various challenges and struggles to learn from others who have experienced similar things and feel like they’re not alone with their problems. Also, despite the major influence of social media platforms, it’s up to people to think twice about what content they upload and how that might influence others. All this information about the negative effects of social media on mental health and body image is nothing new. However, it nudges these platforms to come up with solutions for how to support their users. And that’s always a good thing.
⚡️ 10 innovations revolutionizing mental health
In collaboration with Scientific American, the World Economic Forum presented a list of top 10 innovations in mental health taking place as we speak. While the global mental health challenges haven’t disappeared, today there are numerous solutions brought by diverse fields to tackle a problem that once appeared to be out of control. Let’s take a look at some of these exciting developments!
The first cluster of innovations is related to the treatment of mental health disorders. There are new drug therapies for treatment-resistant depression — currently, one-third of those dealing with depression do not respond to two or more antidepressants. Recent scientific advancements, however, have led to the development of antidepressants that act via completely different mechanisms, followed by esketamine, a chemical related to ketamine, being approved for treatment-resistant depression. The use of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin and MDMA, to treat mental health disorders is also rising. The number of clinical trials involving those drugs has increased rapidly over the last decade, reaching a high of 17 trials last year. Finally, digital care options through teletherapy and various applications continue to see explosive growth. Online services can reach the most remote regions and eliminate the fear of stigma for seeking treatment. Public and private sectors in several countries have developed online mental health support and services that have become trusted sources of help and referral for young people, their families, and others in distress.
Another bunch of new developments relate to our immediate environments — work, education, social media. Firstly, data from social media can now be used to observe trends and prevent self-harm thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, natural language processing and other data science tools. Secondly, there are more and more online education programs on good mental health practices. The future of learning is pretty much certain to consist of a combination of digital and hybrid models, and the addition of technology and digitization into the mix will ensure higher personalization, increased participation, and the ability to scale. That, combined with public-private partnerships, collaborations with tech and social media companies, and celebrity endorsements, has the power to revolutionize mental health education for young people. Finally, in these volatile times, new workplace models are popping up to improve workplace wellness. There’s a great opportunity to treat workplace wellness research the same as business performance or product strategy, and these efforts can become even more powerful when private organizations pool their findings and share them with the public sector.
The last group is digital solutions. Today we can leverage digital devices to revolutionize how research is done — smartphones and wearables offer an opportunity to create more representative data pools of the global population and help bridge existing research gaps. Digital tools now can also be used to train providers and fill gaps in mental healthcare. Approximately 4 out of 5 people in middle and low-income countries do not receive any mental health care — digital tools can assist supervision and quality assurance of psychological interventions at scale. Lastly, multiple organizations, like OneMind or the World Economic Forum, started developing criteria to ensure the consistent quality of digital mental health tools. It will allow marking a product as clinically validated, ethical, secure and effective, which will help people choose what works best for them as thousands of services claiming to treat psychological difficulties flood digital marketplaces. We’re excited to see it in practice!
💸 Mental health funding is at an all-time high, yet problems persist
Venture funding going into behavioral health is at a record high — this is good news that we’ve discussed more than once. Yipee! This time, however, let’s look at it from a different perspective. While billions of dollars are being invested, it’s far from enough, and there are still major gaps to be filled and opportunities to be addressed.
There are quite a few prevalent problems in the behavioral health sector. To begin with, there are huge provider shortages — there aren’t enough specialists to meet the ever-increasing demand. For startups, it often results in competing for the same pool of talent, typically meaning higher salaries for providers. The salaries, however, are frequently paid with venture dollars, meaning that it’s not sustainable long term. The obvious solution is to promote mental health careers and train more providers. But that takes time, and until we get there, it might require interim solutions, such as cleaning up providers lists in databases, better matching, and improving the process of integrating mental health with primary care. Another important problem is quality control. The quality varies widely between services, which may be harmful long-term. The issues of pushing meds too soon or hiring inexperienced providers also creep up, as there’s a lack of a common treatment standard for services provided online.
If we take a good look at what’s being funded, we see that quite a lot has been invested in digital health in the last few years. However, how much exactly depends on the definition of behavioral health — often “generalist” companies, providing mental health services as part of their packages, are included in the data, and while companies specializing in mental health like Ginger, Lyra, Modern Health, etc. are still a large category, there’s less funding going to them than one might think. For instance, according to Rock Health’s analysis, generalist startups accounted for $1.6B of funding in 2020 compared to the specialists’ $804.3M. Whether it’s a good thing depends on whether one thinks mental health should be a part of a broader health care package or treated separately — both can be great ways to reach different patients. In terms of online, in-person or hybrid models, all are getting funded. Again, there is a benefit to all of them as they can fulfill different needs.
Despite all the funding, many big gaps persist. One of the largest ones is geriatrics — there are barely any scaled solutions for people entering early stages of dementia or generally approaching the end of life. Other big categories include severe mental illness, kids and teens, and bringing patients together in groups. Specialization could help tackle some of the problems, as it’s a useful tool for providing high-quality, specialized treatments for a range of conditions. For more common conditions, consolidation is becoming a trend that can bring about positive outcomes — multiple providers under the same roof or a digitally unified care team offer an easier way for new patients to seek help and discover their exact needs. Also, as part of the shift towards mental health care systems, payment needs to change. One of the obstacles for referring a patient from one mental health provider to another is economic incentives — providers are rewarded for seeing as many patients as possible during a given day, which results in a drop in quality and inconvenient, sometimes overly frequent care for people that don’t need it, and a lack of access to people that do. In conclusion, there’s a lot of space for improvement. But we have a feeling this is only the beginning for mental health care, and can’t wait to see what comes next.
Gabija works as a Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Masawa. She lets her vision of a more just, sustainable, equitable world guide Masawa’s story and inform the work towards transforming global mental wellness to make it accessible and accepted.