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World's first mental health gym takes a fitness approach to emotional wellness

Mental health often isn't addressed until someone reaches a state of crisis, much like someone not eating well or exercising until they've had a heart attack. California-based startup Coa aims to flip that convention and get people to take a proactive approach to mental health through regular maintenance and tune-ups.

The company launched earlier this month after its founders first trialled the concept by hosting mental health pop-ups across the US; it currently offers one-off emotional fitness classes for USD 25, and three themed eight-week series for USD 240. Coa also runs programs through employers, including Bloomberg, Spotify, Asana and Silicon Valley Bank.

While classes are led by licensed therapists, Coa stresses they aren't for clinical needs. Because of social distancing rules, Coa is online-only for now, but plans to open brick-and-mortar locations in major US cities, lending mental health gyms the visibility that could make them part of daily life.

Creating the mental equivalent of a physical fitness studio enables consumers to maintain their own emotional wellbeing, and also provides a space for people to connect as a community. Coa's timing couldn't be better, as the pandemic has increased anxiety, loneliness and depression for millions, and awareness of the need for preventative care is growing. One to launch in your own part of the world? If your brand already operates in health or fitness, figure out how you can remove friction and stigma around accessing mental health care, and make dropping in for an emotional wellbeing class as natural as signing up for a HIIT session.

Innovation of the day