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Tom Insel – Mental Health “CZAR” Of The State Of California

 Martin-Headshot Martin Schappell - Behavioral Health Industry Veteran

Tom Insel is the mental health “czar” of the State of California, he’s a co-founder of Mindstrong Health, and formerly Director of the NIMH.  Tom is someone I look up to greatly as a trailblazer in the mental health space around what can be done, what is being done and what could be done to improve access to high quality care.


Tom has a rare combination of skills as a highly experienced neuroscientist, founder, entrepreneur, and investor in mental health startups.  His advice and thought leadership help lead policy initiatives around the country on the topic of access to high quality, evidence based mental health care.


This episode is an excerpt from a Zoom call between Tom and the first cohort of founders from the What If Fellowship. The audio quality isn’t perfect as it was not originally intended to be a “podcast”, but the insights from decades of experience trying to solve for better access to care are priceless and I am excited to share these insights with you. If you are a founder building in this space, you will want to consider what Tom has to share from his experience.

Links: Tom’s LinkedIn, Humanest Website,  Tom’s Ted Talk: Can Smartphones Solve the Mental Health Crisis?

What If Fellowship Program (Mental Health Accelerator):

 imageedit_18_6663437128-e1573241083400 Martin Schappell - Behavioral Health Industry Veteran Martin Schappell - Behavioral Health Industry Veteran


  1. Tom talks about his experience in the mental health space, about his book that will be released next year, and he reflects on how 2020 has changed the mental health landscape.
  2. We discuss the huge shift in the need for telehealth resources in 2020 due to the pandemic and how there will be a huge market for it even after the pandemic is finished.
  3. Tom shares what he calls the three P’s for mental health and addiction recovery: 1) People, 2) Place, and 3) Purpose, and how long-term solutions need to take these three things into consideration.
  4. Tom shares what he thinks is the recipe for a good startup company in this space and tips for how to build and grow in this space.
  5. We talk about how the current system is broken for patients and their families when insurers and companies are the ones footing the bill and at the same time, trying to reduce costs for het sake of profit.
  6. We discuss how we could tear down the whole system and build something new!
  7. Tom shares his idea for what hasn’t been done yet for the mental health space but that could be a true game changer he would like to see by 2030.

Finally, Tom weighs in on the use of psychedelics in the treatment of mental disorders.

Connect with the Stigma Podcast in the following ways: What If Fellowship, Patreon, Website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Email

Connect with host Stephen Hays here: Stephen Hays Personal Website, Twitter, LinkedIn, What If Ventures (Mental Health Venture Fund)

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