Super Bowl winner Ryan Mundy is investing in response to mental health challenges in Black communities

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 25, 2024 7:09 AM EDT
Ryan Mundy. Photo credit: Ryan Mundy

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in five persons in the United States experiences a discernible mental illness. In the general population, mental illness remains undertreated with even lower utilization of mental health services among African-Americans. Although Black adults are more likely to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, only one in three Black adults are receiving the mental healthcare they need. Limited resources and access to necessary tools account for the enormous gap in the Black community’s mental and emotional support system. Only four percent of U.S. therapists are Black, which makes it more difficult for the community to find therapists who can relate to their feelings, values, and cultural experiences.

Former Super Bowl champion Ryan Mundy’s mental health platform Alkeme Health is addressing an important gap in the $5 billion mental health app industry. With a mission to educate and provide the culture with much-needed health and wellness tools, Alkeme is creating generational health.

Having spent 24 years of his life playing football, Mundy was left adrift when his playing career came to an end. He played high school football and then played college football at West Virginia and Michigan. He was selected by his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the 2008 NFL Draft and won the Super Bowl in his rookie season. Mundy went on to the Chicago Bears and the NY Giants. After a successful eight-year run in the NFL, he suffered a major injury in 2015 marking the end of his career. He officially retired a year later.

Mundy found himself at crossroads when he retired. In his early thirties, he had to figure out life all over again – albeit with no idea what to do. The endless possibilities paralyzed him with fear. Soon, anxiety, depression, identity issues, and imposter syndrome set in. Mundy underwent psychotherapy and participated in meditation rituals and other homeopathic wellness methods to get back on track. Along the way, he realized that it was rare for people to talk about mental health and resources weren’t readily available and accessible. He set out to fix the system.

“I found myself in a depressed state, dealing with a bunch of anxiety and identity issues. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the next chapter in my life. I looked into the market to try to get resources to try to help navigate my thoughts, emotions and current mental state at the time, but completely fell flat. It was not a money thing but it was just more about a cultural intelligence and an accessibility that, quite frankly, I couldn’t find my way to help,” Mundy explained.

Before founding Alkeme, Mundy was already immersed in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He co-founded SWZLE, a sustainable straw company which was acquired in October 2020. He also served as managing director at Techlete Ventures, investing in technology companies focused on sports, health, lifestyle, and the future of work. In 2020, Mundy established Alkeme, a health platform specifically targeting the inadequacies of mental healthcare among Black communities. Influenced by his background as a professional athlete, he decided to focus on supplementation and nutrition to counter some of the chronic diseases affecting the Black community.

However as Mundy prepared to launch Alkeme Health, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It dismantled the original model that incorporated a physical product and forced him to quickly pivot. Rising social unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement shifted the spotlight onto mental health which Mundy had personally experienced. The pandemic compounded the geographic, financial, and time constraints that make it hard for Black people to access the help they need. Mundy consequently developed a digital-first program to support his mission to break down barriers to accessing mental health resources among African Americans.

Alkeme is putting all the necessary tools and resources effectively into the hands of African-Americans to digest, on-demand and at their own pace. At the forefront of culture, well-being, and technology, it is making health and wellness more accessible and more affordable for the community. Members can access world-class content curated to address the Black experience, including a growing library of therapy modules, guided meditations, and live therapist discussions designed to help individuals at the respective stages of their healing journey. The content is created and taught by renowned licensed clinical experts in addressing anxiety, gender, depression, diet and lifestyle, work, relationships, joy, and other areas of personal growth.

The company raised $4.6 million in seed funding in 2021 and launched its iOS application to celebrate Black History Month in 2022. Through the Alkeme Athlete Coalition, it has partnered with digital marketplace MOGL to provide athletes with the necessary tools and resources to support their mental well-being. Alkeme has also partnered with McDonald’s to provide a mental health course specifically for HBCU students.

Even while leading a fast-growing mental health startup, Mundy prioritizes his mental health and that of his team. Wellness is front and center of the internal company culture at Alkeme.

“Every meeting, we start with the meditation and mindfulness moment. Every day, we have a status update talking about, ‘What’s your Alkeme? What did you do to take care of yourself today?’ We’re highly cognizant of it and making sure that we’re supporting one another with our overall health and wellness because we do understand the nature of our business and the importance of just taking good care of yourself,” said Mundy.