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Dr. Thomas Insel

Neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and national leader in mental health research, policy, and technology

  • About Thomas Insel

    Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Insel is the national leader in mental health research, policy, and technology. He previously served as the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health from 2002 until 2015 and before joining Verily Life Sciences to lead a team to develop technology for mental health care. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board at Steinberg Institute as well as Co-Founder and Executive Chair of Vanna Health. Vanna Health works with community partners to help people with serious mental illness in their recovery. 

    In his extensive research and his informative talks, Dr. Insel speaks on the need for our society to have plans for long-term recovery rather than drug therapies for symptom reduction. With mental illness on the rise due to the COVID pandemic, Dr. Insel argues that it’s more relevant than ever to make mental health care more affordable and available, especially for those who need it the most.

    Dr. Thomas Insel is also the author of Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health, a bold and actionable map for the re-invention of America’s broken mental health care system. He reframes the mental health crisis not as a just medical problem, but a long-needed progress toward a more inclusive, more compassionate, and healthier society. Drawing on his decades of experience as the director of the NIMH, his comprehensive research into the nature of the problem, and the history of curing mental health, Dr. Insel proposes a path to healing, building upon what he calls the three Ps (people, place, and purpose).

    Dr. Thomas Insel has previously served as the principal advisor on mental health to the governor of California. He received numerous national and international awards including honorary degrees in the U.S. and Europe. He graduated from Boston University and currently lives in California.

    Contact us about booking Dr. Thomas Insel for your next event.

  • Speaking Topics

    Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health

    People with a serious mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression) are more likely to be in our jails and prisons or in our homeless shelters than in our mental healthcare system. Indeed, our mental healthcare system is not really about health or care and is not truly a system. The tragedy is that we have effective treatments and most people, treated early and given comprehensive care, will recover. The current crisis – a crisis of care – is entirely fixable, as President Kennedy declared in 1963 when he pledged that people with mental illness must no longer “be alien to our affections.” This lecture calls for a new social movement to commit to Kennedy’s vision as it describes the path from mental illness to mental health.

    Innovation in Mental Health

    The smartphone and tablet are revolutionizing how mental health conditions are diagnosed and mental health care is delivered. This revolution is solving old problems of access and stigma, but it is introducing new problems of privacy and quality. How we navigate this brave new world of mental health can be the difference between life and death for millions of people with untreated mental illness. In this lecture, Dr. Thomas Insel describes recent progress in the use of technology and explores what we need to do to ensure that innovation delivers on its promise to transform mental health.

    Mental Health During the Covid Pandemic

    The pandemic was caused by a novel coronavirus, but the consequences have included a mental health crisis. In truth, this crisis preceded Covid-19, but the stress of social isolation, loss of loved ones, and prolonged uncertainty has made a long-standing mental health problem an inescapable mental health crisis. As with the viral pandemic, social disparities have affected death and disability from psychological causes, but the mental health consequences have been greatest for young people. In this past year, adolescents have been more likely to die of suicide or drug overdoses than Covid. In this lecture, Dr. Thomas Insel describes what we must do now for the psychological fallout from this pandemic and how we can avert deaths of despair during this difficult time.

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  • Praise for Thomas Insel


    Dr. Insel was a great speaker, and the Physicians and Psychiatrists really enjoyed his presentation during the Physician Institute pre-summit.

    Missouri Behavioral Health Council

    Praise for Healing

    Healing is truly one of the best books ever written about mental illness, and I think I’ve read them all. Dr. Insel speaks as a parent, scientist, doctor, and our government’s former ‘nation’s psychiatrist,’ defining what’s wrong and offering clear-headed solutions—all while guiding us forward with compassion, goodness, and hope in this juggernaut wake-up call.

    Pete Earley, author of Crazy

    Healing is a masterpiece. Tom Insel has combined his powerful intellect, knowledge of science and history, and decades of experience with real life examples, and combines analysis of the nature of the problem, the history of how we and others have dealt with it, the programs that work and what we can do to fix a broken system, in a clear, concise and powerful way. If you care about mental illness—whether you suffer yourself from a brain disease, have experienced a family member or dear friend with serious mental illness, are a policy maker with responsibility for reforming the broken system, or simply want to be educated—this book is a must read.

    Norman Ornstein, New York Times bestselling author of One Nation After Trump

    There is no one better equipped to address this dialectic between medicine and humanism, and there is no more urgent task in modern medicine than bridging this yawning gap.

    Andrew Solomon, author of Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree

    The mental health crisis in America has been neglected for too long, with care made inaccessible or ineffective for too many of us. In this essential book, one of our most visionary leaders reveals that the solution demands a holistic approach. By reframing the mental health crisis as an opportunity for social justice, hopefully Tom Insel’s ideas will bring about long-needed progress toward a more inclusive, more compassionate, and healthier society. Recovery is for every family dealing with a mental health issue, which today means nearly every family in the United States.

    Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

    The time has come for a social movement to address the needs of people with mental illness across national borders. I believe that Tom Insel’s book can be the catalyst for this movement.

    Shekhar Saxena, MD, Former Director of Mental Health, WHO, Geneva

    The mental health crisis has become the civil rights issue of our time. Someday we will look back at our incarceration and exclusion of people with brain disorders and wonder how we could have been so callous. With this book, that day may come sooner than any of us imagine. Insel, the nation’s expert on the science of mental illness, shows us how we shall overcome the chaos of the mental health crisis with commitment and compassion.

    Patrick Kennedy, former Representative US Congress; Founder, Kennedy Forum
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