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By Dave Kerpen
My dad has chronic bipolar disorder and has spent the better part of the last 3 decades in and out of psych wards in New York. I’ve often imagined how his life might have been different if he had had UMA Health or something like it in his life.
On a lighter note, many a Sunday night for the past three years I’ve watched Showtime’s Billions, and have wondered how much more successful my friends and I might be in business if we had somebody like Wendy by our side.
For all of my adult life, I’ve been passionate about mental health. And I’ve always believed that mental health isn’t about those who are sick vs those who are well – it’s about all of us improving our happiness, security, sense of safety and self-worth. It’s about all of us becoming focused on who we are and what we want to get out of life and give to this world. It’s about minding our health and achieving peak performance.
Now, I’m finally doing something about that passion.
Last week I took to LinkedIn to share an announcement with you all. I am the new CEO of a new startup – a mental health and executive coaching marketplace that’s aiming to change the face of mental health forever called UMA Health.
As some of you who have read my books know, I come from a family where mental health is a real issue. My dad has chronic bipolar disorder. Others in my family have struggled with depression and anxiety and other mental health issues and so mental health has always been a very big passion of mine.
In fact, like many of my fellow New Yorkers, I have had lots of therapists in my life. While at least one in five adults experience major symptoms of mental illness, many still feel like it is too taboo or don’t want people to judge them, and, therefore, the conversation surrounding mental health is often silenced.
Furthermore, 60% percent of people don’t disclose their condition to their employer, which often prevents them from getting help. This really profoundly affects business and professional performance.
Mental health issues are estimated to cost 200 million lost work days a year, resulting in up to $44 billion dollars in lost productivity.
Personally, Judy was the therapist who I saw for the longest time and she and her partner were actually at my wedding 12 years ago. Unfortunately, she is no longer in New York. So recently, when I decided I wanted to see a therapist to help gain some clarity in my life, I had no choice but to start looking for a new one. Going into this process I had hoped that over the last 15 years, technology would have made the process of finding and booking a therapist far easier. Wow was I wrong!
It was an unbelievably frustrating, cumbersome, and opaque process. I searched online and I couldn’t find real rates. I had to make phone calls and get called back and play phone tag just to talk to someone about talking to someone! It was a really frustrating process.
That’s part of why when my friend Pedy, who founded UMA Health, came to me and asked me to step up from being an advisor as I’ve been for the past year, to taking on the CEO role at UMA, I accepted the challenge. I was really excited because UMA takes that frustrating process of finding a mental health provider and makes it so much easier by providing a marketplace where anyone can log in and find the perfect mental health provider for them and see rates and reviews and honest feedback about what it’s like to work with those providers. (We’re starting in New York and expanding soon!)
How are we going to bring mental health to the world in a more scalable way? By bringing UMA directly to businesses and enterprises. I was shocked when I learned that:
A staggering fifty percent of employees with mental health benefits still don’t go through their insurance company when they need help.
Why? Because they don’t believe that it’s going to be confidential because they know there’s going to be a paper trail. By offering UMA dollars directly to employers to give to their key executives and employees, we’re going to take away the fear. We’re going to make mental health more accessible to the rank and file to the millions and millions of employees out there that desperately want help, but are afraid to seek it out.
But as I said, mental health isn’t sick vs well – it’s a journey for all of us. It’s a huge spectrum, and we all can improve our mental health at any given time. I want to help key executives go from 99 to 100, using coaches and psychotherapists like Billions’ Wendy. Through UMA, people will be able to connect with executive coaches, life coaches, performance coaches and other providers who can help them operate at peak performance more often.
I am so excited to go on this journey with you all. If you have feedback on your experiences finding mental health providers and coaches, I’d love to hear from you. If YOU are a mental health provider or coach, I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve read this far and you care about the future of mental health, I’d love for you to check out our website, and let me know how we can make it better. We’ve just begun this process. We’re only offering services in New York but we have a long long way to go.
I want your help to make human health better by bringing mental health more to our daily conversation. Together, we can improve mental health forever. Thanks a lot!
Dave Kerpen is the CEO of UMA Health, the founder and Chairman of Likeable Local, the cofounder and Chairman of Likeable Media, and the NY Times bestselling author of 4 books, including the recent The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want.