Talkspace's Roni Frank: How to destigmatize and prioritize your mental health

Frank and other entrepreneurs and mental health experts explained at the Forbes Under 30 Summit how they’re working to change the conversation about mental health in the workplace.
Honoree/Co-Founder of "Talkspace" Ms. Roni Frank the 2019 National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI-NYC) "Seeds Of Hope" Fundraising Gala on Oct. 7, 2019 in New York.
Honoree/Co-Founder of "Talkspace" Ms. Roni Frank the 2019 National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI-NYC) "Seeds Of Hope" Fundraising Gala on Oct. 7, 2019 in New York.Getty Images/Bruce Glikas

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By Karen Dybis

It’s the $64,000 question for many women in the workplace: How do you balance a high-powered career without experiencing burnout?

It can be difficult to destigmatize the conversation around mental health even though it’s a global health epidemic that touches nearly everyone. In fact, one in five Americans suffer from mental-health issues, and two thirds of this group has no or limited access to mental-health care.

In addition, traditional therapy can be very expensive and hard to access, said Roni Frank, the co-founder of telebehavioral healthcare company TalkSpace, at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit on Sunday. Getting help also has a stigma attached to it, especially for people of color, she noted.

That was especially true for Ann Yang, co-founder of Misfit Foods, who was also part of Sunday’s panel on mental health. In March, Yang posted an essay announcing she was stepping down to an advisory role at her company due to the stress of being an entrepreneur. She had started therapy in early 2019, and recounted being asked her if she considered whether she was clinically depressed. As an extrovert, Yang was shocked — yet relieved — upon hearing the question.

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Co-founders of Misfit Juices Phil Wong and Ann Yang on May, 12, 2015 in Washington, DC.Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

“Depression shows up in a variety of ways,” Yang said. “Being able to use the word ‘depression’ and talk about it both with my direct community and our community through the Internet was hard for me. But when you are vulnerable, it allows other people to be vulnerable as well.”

Such transparency is challenging, but building trust and reaching out for help is the first step, said Ashley Edwards, founder and CEO of MindRight Health. Moreover, getting therapy isn’t just for when you’re feeling overwhelmed or at a breaking point – it can be part of a long-term effort to put your mental health on the forefront of your life, personally and professionally, she said.

Equally important is finding the people who will support your desire to be healthy as an employee, an entrepreneur and as a person, Edwards added.

Yang took the message one step further, telling the audience that it’s a privilege to be able to talk about such issues in and out of work, and to truly be heard. That’s even more essential for first generation Americans or people who grew up in stressful economic situations.

Ashley Edwards attends the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards on May 3, 2019 in New York.Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival file

Frank said she went through a time when she felt like she had to “do it all,” especially as a business owner, wife and mother to two daughters. But there came a time in her life where she had to ask for help, tell her husband she needed time for herself and take a step back once in a while to focus on her own needs.

“I really worked on strategies of how to manage this crazy pressure all the time. For example, I learned how to say no,” Frank said. “Anything that is really not that valuable, I’m going to say no.”

The panelists agreed that ultimately, creating routines that focus on self-care, getting therapy if you can and staying active are great ways to balance being an employee or entrepreneur with being a well-rounded individual.

“Spend your energy with people who make you feel seen and heard,” Edwards said.