Good company: how the AURORA Institute’s innovative approach to mental wellness


Co-founder Christian Angermayer and Giannis Antetokounmpo speak on stage at the AURORA Institute event in Saint-Tropez, France.

Getty Images for the Aurora Institute

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At a star-studded event in Saint-Tropez in July, the non-profit AURORA Institute made its debut. The organization threw a party featuring NBA champion and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, singer Robbie Williams and a who’s who from the worlds of sports, fashion and art, raising more than $8 million at its inaugural fundraising event.

This is just the opening act of a group that plans to help solve the problem of mental health and wellbeing around the world in a new and innovative way.

Tech entrepreneurs Christian Angermayer, Louise Tabbiner and Henry Chalhoub joined forces for the company, bringing a distinctive Silicon Valley-style approach to the concept. Instead of the laborious pace of many nonprofits, AURORA has embraced a startup mindset focused on collaboration and looking to the stars in mental health. “The global mental health crisis is getting worse, fast,” says Angermayer. “We want AURORA to have the biggest impact as soon as possible.”

AURORA believes that mental health has long been neglected and underfunded. For example, he cites statistics from the World Economic Forum that 2% of public health spending goes to mental health, and only 0.5% of global philanthropic health giving goes to mental health.

According to the World Health Organization, more than a billion people currently suffer from a mental health-related problem. Angermayer reports that among this group, 80% lack access to affordable, high-quality mental health treatment.

“We are seeing a mental health crisis of epic proportions,” he says.

THE ORGANIZATION

Singer Robbie Williams attends the AURORA event. (Photo by Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images for Aurora Institute)

Getty Images for the Aurora Institute

AURORA serves as an incubator or accelerator amplifying the efforts of those doing impactful work. In other words, rather than starting another traditional organization from scratch, AURORA wants to energize the best of what already exists. “What we want to do is give these existing charities and NGOs a platform to raise awareness and fundraise,” says Angermayer.

This gives AURORA a unique focus and position, and allows it to direct its contributions where the biggest difference can be made in the shortest possible time. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” says Angermayer. “We’re giving existing nonprofits a platform to raise more money and get exposure.”

Additionally, by providing funding to organizations and individuals in many different fields, and with many different ideas and approaches, it increases the number of viable and successful avenues for dealing with this problem. “The mind is as beautiful as it is complex, and we need as many solutions as possible,” says Angermayer.

FUNDING

AURORA was launched with an initial goal of raising US$50 million in five years. After a smashing inaugural fundraising event, the organization’s aspirations have already grown. “After raising just over $8 million in our first event, we are confident that we are on the right track,” says Angermayer. “In fact, I hope we will harvest a lot more [than US$50 million].”

People at home who want to support his mission can make direct donations online. “We need more people to show their support, and financial donations will allow us to provide even more funding to leading individuals and NGOs tackling the mental health crisis,” Angermayer said.

More than funds, however, AURORA is action-oriented and seeks to increase its pool of collaborators who can continue its efforts. “We are open to all suggestions and work with supporters, donors and donors around the world,” says Angermayer. “I invite everyone to connect with us, no matter how small their idea.”

Kevin Love and Kate Bock.

Getty Images for the Aurora Institute

WHAT IS THE GOOD?

AURORA has designated four initial winners to receive funds and distribute to their own charities or projects. This includes NBA player Kevin Love and his Kevin Love Fund; The Klitschko Foundation of brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight boxing champions, the latter being the mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine; Adam Gazzaley, a leading neuroscientist and founder of Neuroscape Lab; and The weight of gold, a 2020 documentary highlighting the connection between elite athletic competition and psychological wrestling.

Other initiatives will include an upcoming series of global concerts led by Williams, dubbed MIND AID, to raise funds and work to de-stigmatize mental health; Antetokounmpo’s addition of mental health initiatives to his Charles Antetokounmpo family foundation; and a US$3 million pledge from Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi of fintech company BREX to support mental health-friendly workplaces.

“Mental health does not discriminate; it affects all people in one way or another, in all walks of life,” says Angermayer. “AURORA has created an ecosystem of cutting-edge global leaders in business, technology, science, philanthropy and the arts, all of whom are passionate about better mental health. I have never encountered such a diverse group of people as we had at [launch event]. I was amazed and encouraged at how unifying the common cause of mental health was.

AND AFTER

Drawing on his entrepreneurial background, Angermayer believes the organization can take on rarefied air within the global health and wellness community. “Being an investor and entrepreneur myself, my main hope for AURORA is that it becomes the equivalent of something like a ‘unicorn,'” he says. “I hope we will build momentum at an exponential rate to raise enough funds to have a real and measurable impact on the global mental health crisis.”

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