Depression, Suicide, and the Future of Mental Health

I lost a good friend in San Francisco today to depression. He had been battling his illness valiantly for years since I knew him in high school. He was brilliant, hilariously funny, and someone who I always looked forward to having dinner with. He had so much potential to offer the world with his intellect, and we are all worse off without his presence.

As many of you know, I think mental health remains one of the most under-examined areas for research, creativity, and innovation that we have today. Depression is one of the leading causes of death in this country, and yet, we still treat it much the way we have for decades: with drugs whose effects we barely understand. Irving Kirsch, one of the leading experts in the field at Stanford, said last year, “One hundred years from now, people will look back at the age of giving SSRIs and they will have a reputation that’s akin to bloodletting.”

There has to be a better way.

There have been a handful of startups like Teletherapy and 7 Cups of Tea that have started to address this area. But so much more can be done. I hate it when entrepreneurs ask me how they can make a difference in a reasonable period of time for a lot of people, and then begin to focus on things like aging. This area is so under-explored, we don’t even know if there are ways of dramatically improving the lives of millions of people with just some lines of code.

My friend was an engineer, and I can’t think of a better way to remember his legacy than to take his problem-solving ethos and apply it to one of the most important health problems today. Rest in peace.