Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Has Arrived

For bringing star power to the often taboo topic of mental health

It was the middle of the game and professional basketball player Kevin Love was in trouble: His heart was racing, and the NBA all-star couldn’t catch his breath. “It was like my body was trying to say to me, ‘You’re about to die,’” he wrote about the 2017 incident. But it wasn’t a physical issue. It was a panic attack, “the culmination of years and years of me suppressing a lot of issues.”

The event proved to be a turning point for Love: Rather than deny the pain or deal with his anxiety in private, Love decided to use his fame to shine a bright light on mental health. He helped launch Coa (short for Coalesce), which bills itself as the world’s first gym for mental fitness. The founders started with pilot pop-ups across the United States and Canada, and when the pandemic forced an abrupt halt to those events, the team doubled down on developing its online presence. The result: a digital platform that offers therapist matchmaking, group classes and online sessions—posting a 900 percent surge in demand in 2020.

The pandemic’s eventual end may not dim demand, either. That’s in part because Gen Z and millennials—together, the largest global workplace cohort—report that everything from climate change and financial instability to healthcare and long-term career prospects is stressing them out, according to a 2020 report by Deloitte

Love has said he hopes Coa and other services like it can help further erode the stigma around mental health support. “I’m not trying to sell you some happy ending,” he wrote. “But I can tell you that it does get better. And I can tell you that you are definitely not alone.”

*Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

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