By Sean Zucker –
Mental health was already an alarming issue before the pandemic, but now it might be reaching ungodly levels. Some, such as USA Today, have even gone as far as to call it an epidemic. However, emerging fitness business Coa believes it has developed the remedy with the world’s first mental health gym.
The New York Times recently underscored the problem, noting that the pandemic generated new challenges for many in need of help. “Since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the United States more than a year ago, the number of people in need of mental health services has surged,” it reported. “But many say that they are languishing on waiting lists, making call after call only to be turned away, with affordable options tough to find. Providers, who have long been in short supply, are stretched thin.”
The demand led to a recent boom in mental health supporting apps, though the reviews have been mixed. As WellWell previously reported, “Ultimately, mental health apps offer the promise to help those who might otherwise be left on their own. But they come with a strong buyer beware label that mark them, at best, as supplemental support until proven otherwise.” Unfortunately, the best treatment continues to be in person care.
That’s where Coa comes in. Their mission? Create a culture that celebrates mental health by building a home for therapy, emotional fitness classes and community. All in a place where connection and self-discovery are valued and accessible. In short, it’s a gym to exercise psychological muscles rather than physical ones.
While the company does currently offer online workshops and classes, its innovation claims to be rooted in its in-person sessions and accessibility. Following a few lockdown related hiccups, it plans to open four physical locations in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco next year.
Coa, which is short for “coalesce” meaning “growing together,” currently offers small group classes in emotional fitness starting around $25 each. The approach has already made some buzz in Silicon Valley circles.
Last fall the company notched $3 million in seed funds from various investors on the back of a widespread growing interest in mental health support. Investors include NBA champion Kevin Love and Casper Sleep founder Neil Parikh, among others.
“We spend so much time talking and working on our physical health,” Love told Men’s Health. “If mental health was given the same amount of attention, we’d make massive strides to help those who need it.”
Love went on to elaborate how coming up in a hypermasculine profession made it difficult to properly confront and handle issues without a perceived loss of strength and manliness. But he now realizes the opposite is true.
“I’m in a hypermasculine sport and never wanted to be looked at as weak or lose trust from my teammates and coaches,” he shared. “Thankfully, exposing my truth was incredibly freeing and helped me settle in both on and off the court. Share your story. Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.”
Of course, the exact effectiveness of Coa gyms is yet to be determined, but if nothing else it will hopefully impact overall perception of mental health issues. At least that’s one aim, according to cofounder and the chief clinical officer Emily Anhalt, Psy.D.
“The world wants a quick and easy fix for a problem that is not quick or easy,” she explained. “Who we are as people is nuanced, it’s layered. And the only solution that’s going to work is one that honors that complexity.”