Madhappy Foundation founds new Pediatric Psychiatric Fund at VUMC

The funding from Madhappy will be used by VUMC to develop a childhood anxiety screen tool to support early detection and intervention.


Lexie Perez

Madhappy and VUMC collaboration to support children with anxiety (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)

Ekta Anand and Abigail Henthorn

The Madhappy Podcast released an episode on Oct. 10 announcing the establishment of a pediatric psychiatric fund at VUMC. The Madhappy Foundation Pediatric Psychiatric Fund, which will be managed by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at VUMC, aims to develop a childhood anxiety screener. 

“We’re hoping that early detection and more intervention can absolutely change the trajectory of these kids’ lives,” Mason Spector, co-host of the podcast, said in the episode. 

Madhappy, founded by Peiman Raf and Mason Spector, is a lifestyle company that produces podcasts, articles and interviews as well as apparel, all in the spirit of creating a conversation around bettering and maintaining mental health in today’s society. The company also runs a nonprofit called The Madhappy Foundation that makes initiatives such as the VUMC Pediatric Psychiatric Fund possible. 

The Madhappy Foundation was established in Jan. 2022 with the goal of allocating funds to causes and organizations working towards mental health advancement. The company allocates 1% of every sale towards initiatives they feel support “the advancement of mental health.” 

The company states it is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and providing and promoting accessibility to mental health resources. 

“While we are not experts or medical professionals, we hope to serve as guides – raising awareness and accessibility so that people can better identify what they’re going through, and seek help when needed. Mental health affects us all, and the sooner we view it as a normal part of our everyday lives, the sooner we can get people the support they need,” the company’s “About Us” statement on their website reads. 

The Madhappy Podcast began in 2021 to encourage conversation around mental health. It is hosted by two of the founders of the Madhappy company, Peiman Raf and Mason Spector. The podcast has featured many well-known guests, such as influencers Emma Chamberlain and Cody Ko (Cody Kolodziejzyk), as well as medical professionals such as Dr. Meg Benningfield and Dr. Rachel Hoffoman, Real’s Chief Therapy Officer for the mental health platform, “Real.” In each episode, guests share their journeys with mental health and stress the importance of asking for help and creating a community in which young people feel safe. 

The Oct. 10 podcast episode, released on World Mental Health Day, features Dr. Meg Benningfield, the lead psychiatrist at VUMC working on the childhood anxiety diagnosis screener. Benningfield has been featured in previous episodes, in which she similarly emphasized the prevalence of childhood anxiety. 

“One of the really clear indicators is that anxiety disorders are the first internalizing disorders to show up,” Benningfield said in the episode. “They’re the first, the earliest manifestation of mental illness that we see, that when you don’t treat early, often leads to more severe anxiety, depression, substance use, and some of the crises that we’ve seen.” 

Benningfield explained that the main issue lies in the lack of early intervention methods for anxiety, which, unlike other mental illnesses, is not easily diagnosed with a screener. In the podcast episode, she noted that 80% of youth with an anxiety disorder go undetected and untreated. This lack of diagnosis increases the risk of additional mental health issues and even suicide. 

“Unlike for depression, where there’s a brief, easy-to-administer self-report form that you can give kids, for anxiety that same brief screener doesn’t exist. So you can either use a long form that asks about lots of different types of anxiety and get a really broad measure, or you can use a really short form, but the short form doesn’t really capture all the domains of anxiety for pediatric patients,” Benningfield said in the episode. 

In 2021 Madhappy partnered with the University of Pennsylvania for World Mental Health day, funding research at the university’s Positive Psychology Center for an online intervention program for college students. Because of Madhappy’s work with UPenn, VUMC applied for funding through the foundation to create the early childhood anxiety screener, according to Benningfield. 

“As soon as the VUMC team reached out to us, we were immediately struck by their kindness and sense of motivation to help create solutions for long-standing mental health challenges,” Ravi Shah, Madhappy director of brand marketing, said in an email to The Hustler. “Over months, we have really enjoyed getting to speak with Dr. Meg Benningfield & Mark Price from VUMC, who have taught us so much about the important work they are doing on a daily basis.”

Shah added that Madhappy is hopeful that, through the partnership with VUMC, they can positively impact adolescents struggling with mental health issues. 

“Our hope is for this work to help legitimize concerns around disorders like anxiety in young people, and to create solutions for future generations to come that can allow them to find help for whatever it is they are going through.”