Despite new drugs, brain scans, and other innovations, mental illness remains an epidemic that we don’t know how to cure or treat. Tom Insel is trying to change that, and he thinks our phones will be the key (David Dobbs in The Atlantic). Insel, who led the National Institute of Mental Health for 13 years, left government to join the mental-health effort at Verily, Google’s healthcare spinoff — and recently left Verily for a new startup called Mindstrong.
Like several other companies in this field, Mindstrong intends to use the stream of data that our phones produce as a sort of early-warning system for the onset of conditions like depression and schizophrenia, and then help connect the user with counselors, peers, or doctors who can offer resources and treatments — quickly enough to make a difference.
On September 1st, Franklin Wise was not having a great day. He had just finished moving out of his San Francisco apartment, which he was forced to leave behind when a startup job didn’t work out. He was devastated over that; he didn’t want to move and was struggling with the changes he was undergoing. When the final items were packed in the truck, he kissed his girlfriend in that empty apartment, then he kissed her again, and a little more for good measure. She turned to go the bathroom, and he turned, as well, but not to the door. Instead, he took to the ledge and jumped. He ended his life on the street below and, in the process, broke the hearts of so many he left behind.
I knew Franklin from my time in LA, although we had not seen each other in years. We worked together at Myspace and shared an office in Santa Monica after that. He was a unique guy, to say the least — bold, slightly crazy, and full of dreams, just like most of the great people you encounter in the tech industry. He had a passion for what he did, but beyond that, he had the tenacity to do something. Tenacity is a vital trait in our startup world because you’ll fail time and time again. You’ll be discounted and told “No” over and over. You’ll be defeated and want to give up 100 times before you’re successful just that once. Franklin’s own startup ideas never really took off, which, no doubt, took a toll over the years.