David Ebersman stepped down last year as chief financial officer of Facebook FB +0.00% to found Lyra Health, a startup that plans to identify employees who are struggling with mental health, intervene to match them with the right healthcare provider, and track outcomes. It focuses on depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Ebersman says the move stemmed from a personal experience. “It showed how magical it can be to find the right care,” he says. “I was passionate about developing technology in the hope of helping people suffering from mental health.” Ebersman declined to disclose details about his personal experience.
21 years after the publication of Prozac Nation, people who suffer from depression or addiction still largely cope in silence for fear of stigma or discrimination. The economic burden is significant: nearly $200 billion in lost earnings annually, according to a study published in 2008 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Companies need to be proactive about the mental well-being of their employees. One way is to encourage openness and awareness through dialogue and education. “When persons are open about their condition, it may lessen the chance others can affect them emotionally,” saysRobert Glatter, an emergency medicine doctor at North Shore-LIJ and a FORBES contributor.
Lyra Health has raised $35 million in a Series A round led by Greylock Partners and existing investor Venrock to develop screening tools, which it plans to have widely available to self-insured companies and health plans in 2017. Ebersman says the data will come from a “diverse set of sources.” Insurance claims are one source. People who have diabetes are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, says Ebersman, and patients who have just received a cancer diagnosis are vulnerable to depression.
One of Lyra’s main partners is Castlight Health, which is headed by Giovanni Colella, a psychiatrist. Ebersman sits on its board, and the company which provides cost estimates for healthcare tests and procedures invested $3 million in the startup. Castlight offers employees access to mental health resources, and Lyra will complement that service with its analytics tools.
Whether employees will feel comfortable disclosing to Lyra or their employer that they’re depressed or have an addiction problem remains to be seen.