Mental health problems are not necessarily talked about in public. In the start-up show “The Lions’ Den” on Monday evening, mental health was not just discussed as a business idea. The investors also provided insights into their own mental lives. The founders of the start-up “Peers”, an online platform for digital group courses against burnout, anxiety and depression, made sure of this.

At Peers, those affected who would otherwise often have to wait a long time for a therapy place should receive quick psychological help. Based on their information, users are divided into suitable groups of eight to ten people and should be able to quickly address their problems through exchanges within the group and with experienced psychologists.

Before the question of whether the lions would invest 400,000 euros in the platform, the trio of founders handed out packages in the “Lion’s Den” on which the investors could write down their own psychological problems and stresses. And they were surprisingly open to the exercise: “We hoped that at least one lion would say something, but we didn’t expect so many to share their stories,” says founder Sophie Schürmann to stern about their appearance.

Investor Janna Ensthaler, who recently had her third child, spoke about the challenge of working a lot and still being a good mother – all while not getting enough sleep. Tijen Onaran emphasized the importance of resilience against constant everyday stress. And Dagmar Wöhrl admitted that the pressure of constantly wanting to meet all expectations in both her private and professional life often weighs heavily on her.

Carsten Maschmeyer described the most intense experiences: a few years ago, work stress led to burnout, sleep problems, medication dependency and depression. “We can say this very clearly: I was addicted to pills and depressed for two years. In 2009 and 2010. Then I went into withdrawal and had to get rid of all these stupid medications.” He was addicted and had to radically change his life, said Maschmeyer, who made his battle against addiction public in 2021. Even today he still suffers from sleep problems because he is “often overexcited,” he said on the founder show.

After some back and forth on the show, Maschmeyer and Wöhrl managed to make a joint investment in Peers. And the deal actually came about afterwards, as those involved explained when asked. “The idea of ​​offering online group courses for mental health immediately convinced me,” explains Maschmeyer. “I know from my own experience that mental health is a top priority.” Instead of having to wait months for a therapy place, the platform offers immediate support with its innovative concept.

For the Peers founders, it’s not just the support of the lions as donors that is important. The fact that the two of them deal so openly with the supposedly taboo topic also makes them incredibly valuable as role models, says co-founder Julia Hautumm. Ultimately, it takes a lot of effort to talk about your own psychological problems in a group.

In the peer courses, participants meet weekly to exchange ideas, with a psychologist attending every other week. The group courses are officially referred to as “psychological support” and not under the formal term “psychotherapy”. In the future, Peers also wants to offer in-depth individual sessions.

Peers has already entered into initial partnerships with private health insurance companies that cover the course fees. Statutory health insurance companies should follow as soon as possible. “We see Peers primarily as an alternative for people who have to wait a long time for a therapy place or who live in rural areas where you have to drive a long way to find a suitable therapist,” says founder Schürmann.

Transparency note: Like Vox, Stern belongs to RTL Deutschland