Press Release.

Project Healthy Minds®, a new non-profit, launches to confront soaring mental health crisis

  • Business, healthcare, entertainment, and tech leaders unite behind the organization to address the mental health crisis
  • Millennial-driven non-profit startup seeks to close catastrophic mental health treatment gap as COVID-19 drives record cases of depression and suicidal thoughts
  • New non-profit sets out to build anti-stigma campaign and consumer-friendly one-stop digital hub to make support more accessible

New York, October 1, 2020 — Leaders from business, entertainment, healthcare, public policy and technology today launched Project Healthy Minds to tackle America’s urgent mental health crisis as the anxiety and isolation caused by COVID-19 drives record cases of depression and suicidal thoughts, especially among young adults.

Mental health was already at crisis levels pre-pandemic. More than 65 million Americans suffer from a mental health condition, yet 60 percent did not receive support services in the past year. In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1 in 4 young adults (18-24-years-old) seriously considered suicide in the past month – which was already the second-leading pre-pandemic cause of death for 10-34-year-olds in America.

The non-profit startup – the brainchild of millennials and Gen Zers concerned about the disproportionate impact of mental health issues on their generation – will seek to close the longstanding mental health treatment gap that has risen to catastrophic levels, by fighting the continuing stigma around mental health and the difficulty in finding mental health treatment.

“We recruited the leading minds across industries – from the nation’s preeminent doctors to Hollywood executives to White House alumni to technology entrepreneurs to purpose-driven business leaders – because this complex issue demands an interdisciplinary solution,” said Phillip Schermer, Founder & CEO of Project Healthy Minds. “My generation has a different cultural understanding of the world and relationship with technology, so it is important that we marry the millennial and Gen Z perspective with the wisdom of industry leaders. If we do that, we can incubate entirely new solutions to confront this urgent crisis.”

Project Healthy Minds’ two centerpieces will be:

  • Building a free, consumer-friendly, one-stop digital referral platform that aims to increase access to care by making it fast and easy to find and navigate available resources, and
  • Designing a multi-platform anti-stigma campaign featuring culture-makers and influencers.

The launch brings together for the first time a unique group of leaders with deep experience in a wide variety of fields, including physicians, technologists, scientists, corporate leaders, entertainment executives, artists, policymakers, and philanthropists, to launch this new, interdisciplinary social venture.

Project Healthy Minds has formed a working partnership with the National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC), the leading national university consortium on depression. The NNDC will help guide Project Healthy Minds’ work to ensure that the best evidence-based approaches are incorporated into the discovery platform, anti-stigma campaign, and other programmatic initiatives. NNDC’s consortium on depression includes 21 academic institutions, including Harvard, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, University of Michigan, UCSF, University of Pennsylvania, Weill Cornell, Duke, Emory, University of Texas and more.

“More than two decades after the Surgeon General called on us to reinvent our approach to mental health, we still need a breakthrough program – combining the best of the scientific community with the private sector and philanthropists – to confront this crisis. Project Healthy Minds can be that breakthrough effort,” says Dr. J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., Chairman of the National Network of Depression Centers and Co-Director of the Mood Disorder Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

COVID-19 Exacerbates Longstanding Treatment Gap as Depression Rates Skyrocket

A new study published in JAMA this month found that depression rates have skyrocketed three-fold since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also showed that 33% of women reported currently experiencing depression symptoms.

Sabrina Khan, Co-Founder of Project Healthy Minds, explains, “In just my short lifetime — from 9/11 to school shootings to the financial crisis and now the COVID-19 pandemic — the fragility of our physical, financial and emotional safety has been exposed. This has led to a pervasive sense of anxiety among our generation.” She continues, “What was obvious to me was that there was this huge population of women my age who were dealing with their own mental health journeys alone in the shadows, without spaces or platforms where people could comfortably talk about their issues and find help.”

The JAMA authors noted that “post-COVID-19 plans should account for the probable increase in mental illness to come, particularly among at-risk populations.” Sukumar Nagendran, MD, Board of Directors at Solid Biosciences (NASDAQ: SLDB) and Project Healthy Minds said, “I’ve taken on some of society’s most difficult medical challenges. Now I’m focused on bringing together clinical and technological expertise to address the soaring mental health crisis.”

NNDC Partnership to Ensure Evidenced-Based Best Practices Applied To Digital Platform

Over the coming weeks, Project Healthy Minds will be releasing a free, beta tool to simplify finding mental health products and services. The new digital discovery platform is slated for formal release in about one year and will offer a one-stop-shop digital hub that helps people navigate the confusing space of mental health services and connects them with tailored support based on their individual needs.

Dr. John Greden, Founding Chairman of the National Network of Depression Centers and founder of the world’s first Depression Center at the University of Michigan, explains, “We have made a tremendous amount of scientific progress over the last two decades, but there are still far too many people who never get help because they’re too embarrassed to ask for it or give up after being frustrated by how confusing it is to find help. That’s why we need the consumer-oriented approach – rooted in a private sector understanding of consumer behavior, guided by science – that Project Healthy Minds is pioneering.”

Project Will Support Business Efforts to Promote Mental Health in Employees, Society

In addition to the personal toll mental health issues have on young adults, they have a cascading effect on business and society. Depression and anxiety cost businesses $1 trillion every year due to lost productivity, according to the World Health Organization.

“Over the course of my career, I have worked with visionary business leaders across media, finance, and entertainment. The hallmark of each of them was an uncanny ability to spot emerging trends. What’s clear to me today is that two burgeoning business and cultural trends are about to merge: the stakeholder capitalism movement and the mental health crisis,” said Brian Offutt, Chairman of the Board of Project Healthy Minds & former COO of Combs Enterprises, hip hop star and business icon P. Diddy’s portfolio company of businesses and investments. “Employees are walking into the workplace with a new set of expectations of their employers – making it a business and leadership imperative that companies step up to address the mental health crisis.”

World-Class Interdisciplinary Leadership Will Help Project Healthy Minds Meet Ambitious Goals

A wide range of leaders across business, healthcare, entertainment, technology, and public policy have been recruited to Project Healthy Minds’ Board of Directors and Advisory Council. They include:

Board of Directors:

  • Paul Dalio, Filmmaker (“Touched with Fire”, a Spike Lee-produced, New York Times Critic’s Pick film that won 11 awards from mental health organizations for its impact)
  • Aaron Dworkin, MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, President Obama’s first appointee to the National Council on the Arts, and Founder of The Sphinx Organization
  • Stan Galanski, CEO and President of G58 Capital
  • Tera Hanks, President of Westbrook Inc., Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s media company
  • Michael Laskoff, Founder & Former CEO of AbleTo (a behavioral health technology start-up acquired by UnitedHealth Group)
  • Sukumar Nagendran, MD, Former Chief Medical Officer of AveXis Inc (bought by Novartis), and Board of Directors of Solid Biosciences (NASDAQ: SLDB), Taysha and SalioGen boards. Currently, Chief Medical Officer of Jaguar Gene Therapy.
  • Brian Offutt, Former COO of Combs Enterprises, former SVP of Operations for Viacom’s Nickelodeon Group, and former Managing Director at Medialink
  • Lisa Stone Pritzker, Chair of the Lisa Stone Pritzker Family Foundation
  • Susie Sarlo, President of the Susie Sarlo Family Fund
  • Chris Zarou, Founder & CEO of Visionary Music Group & Visionary Records and a Forbes “30 Under 30”

Advisory Council:

  • Peter Benedek, Founding Partner & Board Member, United Talent Agency (UTA)
  • Michele Bernstein, Founder of Michi B (music marketing consulting firm) and former Partner & VP of Tour Marketing at WME
  • Glenn Briffa, Former CFO of Viacom’s Music Group, (RED), and Medialink
  • Will Cady, Head of Creative Strategy at Reddit
  • Marcus Collins, Marketing Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
  • Frank Cooper, Senior Managing Director and Global Chief Marketing Officer, BlackRock
  • Jesse Coren, Founder of Mutual Friends and Partner at Visionary Music Group
  • Dr. Ray DePaulo, Chairman of the National Network of Depression Centers and Co-Director of the Mood Disorder Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Dr. Helen Egger, Chair of the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Director of the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Health
  • Trevor Eld, Independent Creative Director and Former CCO of The FADER
  • Vic Gatto, Founder & CEO of Jumpstart Foundry
  • Tim Gordon, Co-Chief Creative Officer of Droga5
  • Dr. John Greden, Founding Chairman of the National Network of Depression Centers and Executive Director of the University of Michigan Depression Center
  • Dr. Tom Insel, Former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health for 13 years, Former Mental Health Czar for Governor Newsom, and Former Head of Mental Health at Verily/Google, and Currently Co-Founder & Chair of Humanest Health
  • Andrew Kronfeld, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Universal Music Group
  • Greg Levin, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Pursuit and Former Director of Global Philanthropy at BlackRock
  • Dr. Pat McGorry, Founding Board Member of Australia's Headspace (National Youth Mental Health Foundation), named the 2010 Australian of the Year, and Professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne
  • Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Contributing Writer at The Atlantic
  • Dr. Bernice Pescosolido, Founding Director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, Chair of the US National Stigma Studies, and Distinguished and Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology at Indiana University
  • Harry Remler, COO of Visionary Music Group and Visionary Records
  • Dr. Bernie Rosof, CEO of Quality in HealthCare Advisory Group
  • Robbie Salter, Co-Founder of Jupiter and formerly SVP at Medialink
  • Dietram Scheufele, John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication, University of Wisconsin
  • Jason Schulweis, SVP & Head of Brand Partnerships at Morning Brew
  • Brandon Shaw, Communications Director at WME
  • Lenny Stern, Partner at SS+K
  • Peter Tunney, Artist at Miami’s Wynwood Walls
  • Zak Williams, Founder & CEO of PYM
  • Sally Yates, Former Deputy Attorney General and Partner at King & Spalding

Project Healthy Minds partners include:

  • VMLY&R
  • Finsbury
  • Digitas
  • Giant Spoon
  • Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP

About Project Healthy Minds

Project Healthy Minds is a millennial-driven non-profit startup focused on tackling one of the defining issues of our generation: the growing mental health crisis. Project Healthy Minds builds anti-stigma campaigns that change attitudes, technology that makes it easier and faster to discover help, and programs and partnerships that expand access to care.

Finsbury Contact, Media:

Zak Sawyer

(917) 558-4242

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