You likely saw a lot from us at the AmFam Institute during Mental Health Awareness Month in May.
May also marked four years that I’ve spent with the Institute, splitting my time between our Healthy Youth Development and Economic Opportunity investment theses.
In Healthy Youth Development, we look for opportunities that build the mental health and resiliency of children and families. In Economic Opportunity, we look to minimize the footprint of the criminal justice system, build pathways to living wage employment opportunities and translate that financial stability into generational wealth. Our fund also invests in climate justice through our Resilient Communities thesis and education through our Equity in Education thesis.
As we leave Mental Health Awareness Month behind, it’s important to acknowledge that mental health challenges are woven through all four of these investment theses.
There is an opportunity for us all to be more conscious of how all of society’s biggest challenges affect the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, and how technology across all verticals has the potential to affect change in these areas for the better.
For example, in our Resilient Communities thesis, the quality of our air and water fundamentally influences our health and wellbeing, while the total on our utility bill directly impacts financial stress. This financial and environmental stress reverberates through our Economic Opportunity thesis, where the number of jobs needed to make ends meet, the risk of arrest before returning home to one’s family at night, and the ease of covering a financial emergency are all stressors inequitably distributed throughout our society.
But there is hope. The torch we carry through the other eleven months of the year…
While we search for startups that are directly addressing mental health, we also look for founders across all four of our thesis areas that understand the broader implications of the work they are doing. For instance, Catalina Kaiyoorawongs of LoanSense empowers student loan borrowers crippled by debt to purchase their first home, transforming psychological safety, self-efficacy, and security.
Additionally, David Helene of Beam cuts through the red tape for students and citizens, providing real-time access to emergency aid they qualify for when they need it most, reducing undue stress during already stressful times.
I could make the case for nearly all the startups in the AmFam Institute portfolio. Founders who see the ripple effects of the work they’re doing, the transformative impact it has on lives, and its ability to ease burdens and level the playing field.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Joy Ippolito, one of our Social Impact Investment Directors, wrote, “No act is too small to support the health and wellbeing of those around you.” I would add that, no problem is too big that we can’t start tackling it today.
Let us all chip away together, in a Mental Health Awareness Year.