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Megan Rapinoe on why mental health is important and how it fuels her game

April 12, 2022, 6:00 PM UTC

While most likely best known for her work on the soccer pitch, two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Megan Rapinoe champions many causes off the field as well.

The forward for the U.S. Women’s National Team and Seattle’s OL Reign has been at the forefront of the fight for equal pay in women’s soccer, has promoted a diverse cross-section of authors through her book club with Literati, and is frequently a vocal supporter for racial justice and the LGBTQ community, reaching many fans and followers through Instagram. And on top of it all, she has penned a bestselling memoir, with a special edition edited specifically for younger readers.

Also among the causes Rapinoe champions is mental health, even more so now with a new role at Real, a mental wellness startup building an online platform designed to offer more affordable clinician-backed resources for anyone. Promising a more diverse group of therapists on hand to work with more patients from all backgrounds, Real says its therapy model allows users to follow therapist-designed “pathways,” helping them to better navigate relationships (including with themselves) as well as new approaches to dealing with anxiety and depression on their own terms.

This week, Real announced it has closed a Series B round of fundraising that resulted in $37 million in additional capital. Rapinoe is an investor and will serve in an advisory role. She recently shared more with Fortune about her decision to invest with the company.

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City.
Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
  • Startup: Real
  • Location: New York City
  • Year founded: 2019
  • Valuation: Declined to disclose
  • Investment level: Series B
  • Number of employees: 47
  • Other major investors: Owl Ventures

Why she invested, in her own words

As an athlete, I know that the quality of my performance is about more than just my physical conditioning. It’s about making sure that I am taking care of every part of myself. We have seen the effects of mental health reverberate across the collegiate and professional level of sports in ways it never has before. 

Living through the pandemic has only reinforced the importance of taking care of our mental health; it has also revealed how inaccessible help is for too many. Traditional therapy that relies on one-on-one time between a therapist and a patient may work for some people, but it’s expensive, and it lacks the diversity in clinicians that our country needs. Therapy sessions can cost an average of $200 to $250 per session and are at the mercy of a therapist’s availability. For most people, spending even $100 for one hour on therapy, weekly, can be a financial burden. Further, overall, 84% of psychologists are white—only 4% are Black, only 4% are Hispanic, and less than 1% are Asian. This has resulted in a field heavily biased by white ways of thinking and feeling. Between the cost, time commitment, and availability of the therapist, one-to-one therapy is a limited care model. 

At the height of the pandemic, I was introduced to Ariela Safira, who founded Real. After connecting, I was convinced that this is the vision, creativity, scale, and team that is needed to bring mental health care to the masses when our country so desperately needs it. The on-demand tools in Real’s app provide people with mental health care at their fingertips. Real’s team of therapists and creatives design and lead mental health programs, Pathways, to help people learn new skills, pause for reflection, and ultimately build a stronger relationship with themselves—all at a time and place that is most comfortable for them.

I’m proud to be an official member of the Real team as an adviser and investor because I’m inspired by the mission to make mental wellness an essential part of daily life. In using Real, I love how the Pathways guide me to having introspective moments on my own time—whether I’m relaxing or right about to get on the field—it is truly integrated into my day-to-day life. 

Today, more than ever before, people are learning to take mental health and mental wellness seriously, making room for when we might not be okay. There is still a stigma, but we’re seeing how technology can help make mental health care more accessible so we can all have the space to get the care we deserve.

This is an installment of Why I Invested, a series featuring famous investors from all different backgrounds and industries, revealing what inspired them to invest their own money in a new business.