Hope for Depression Blog

Guest Bloggers

  • Louisa Benton

    Executive Director

  • Steven P. Roose, M.D

    Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

  • Huda Akil, Ph.D

    DTF Chair

Hope Luncheon Seminar 2017 Was a Great Success!, Thursday 16 November 2017

We want to send heartfelt thanks to the over 300 supporters of our Eleventh Annual HOPE Luncheon Seminar on Wednesday, November 8th.  The sold-out event raised over $800,000 for HDRF’s research and received fantastic coverage, including People, the Daily News and Page Six.


Brief Highlights:

Actress and Author Ashley Judd accepted the HOPE Award with a heartfelt speech about her recovery from major depression and her work for women and children around the globe.

World-renowned brain scientist Dr. Eric Nestler spoke on the “Genetics of Depression” and the latest findings of the HDRF Depression Task Force.

Founder & Chair Audrey Gruss announced the launch of the Hope fragrance collection, now available for purchase at Saks.com. 100% of net profits will go to advanced depression research.

You can purchase the Hope fragrance, body cream, and candle at select Saks stores and Saks.com.

Documentary Film

We unveiled a trailer for a feature-length documentary about depression that is currently in the making by a veteran team of filmmakers. Click here to view the trailer.

We would like to thank the incomparable Chuck Scarborough for being our Master of Ceremonies, and all the HOPE Luncheon Co-Chairs who helped create this huge success: Ann Barish, Serena McKnight Bowman, Caroline Dean, Peter Gregory, Kim Heirston, Tania Higgins, Margo Langenberg, Kitty McKnight, Peter S. Paine III, and Patricia Rosenwald.

We’ve loved hearing your feedback! Here are the comments you sent us!

“Simply the best!”

“Informative and moving all at the same time. Bravo!”

“Easy to understand and loaded with information.” 

“Beautifully organized and paced!”

“Ashley Judd’s story was riveting and moving.”

“Thanks to you this world will be a more optimistic and positive place.”

Thanks also to our top donors: 

Doctorate Sponsors: Eric Javits Inc., Nancy Silverman

Founder Sponsors: Debra & Leon Black

Benefactor Sponsors: Ann & Keith Barish, EGL Charitable Foundation, The Estee Lauder Companies, William Flaherty, Susan & Craig McCaw, Vera Serrano

Patron Sponsors: The Abraham Fuchsberg Family Foundation, Bridge of Allen Foundation, Ide & David Dangoor, Caroline Dean, Edmund Dunst/HUB International North East, Exhale Spa, Findlay Galleries, Maru M. Hagerty, Tania Higgins, Michele & Howard Kessler, Kristen Maltese Krusen, Margo Langenberg, Leonard and Judy Lauder Fund, Susan Lloyd, Barbara Smith, Emilie Sullivan, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Thank you all for a truly memorable day! To view more pictures from the event click here.



HDRF Depression Task Force: Researchers’ Exciting New Findings, Thursday 5 October 2017

Since 2012, the acclaimed researchers of HDRF’s Depression Task Force (DTF) have worked tirelessly to better understand the brain biology of depression in order to develop a new type of anti-depressant, one that works differently from the 20-plus drugs already on the market. Finding a new option is crucial, since 50% of patients do not respond fully to available anti-depressants.

We are delighted to announce that the Depression Task Force is closer than ever to achieving this bold goal: A recent major paper authored by the entire team reveals they have discovered novel, tangible approaches to new treatments, and they are ready to drive these discoveries from animal testing to clinical trials.

The article, “Treatment Resistant Depression: A Multi-scale, Systems Biology Approach,” appears online this month in the prestigious journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, and will soon be in print. Working together, the seven investigators of the DTF have found new candidate mechanisms for treatment in a relatively short amount of time. It is a brilliant example of collaboration across multiple laboratories and universities.

Here are the highlights:

  • They have identified a circuit deep in the brain that appears to play a key role in depression.
  • The circuit is not in just one area of the brain, but connects four hubs that regulate emotion.
  • Specific patterns of neurons within the circuit become over-active or under-active in depression.
  • They have started to map the genetic architecture of these regions, and identify how the architecture changes in depression.
  • As a result, they have identified not just precise micro-circuits, but underlying genes that seem to play a key role in depression.

To read the entire paper, please click here.

The publication marks an exciting five-year milestone for our research plan. The DTF is now preparing small, pilot clinical trials of potential therapies, entering into a more mature phase of drug discovery with a handful of promising molecular targets.

As clinical trials commence, the DTF will continue work to find a physical diagnosis for depression and identify different depression subtypes. It is not far-fetched to imagine that in the next decade we will see a whole new generation of treatments – be it drug, brain stimulation or psychotherapy — that work precisely where they are needed.

Yes, there is much hard work ahead. We can’t help but marvel at all that we’ve accomplished, and with your help, all that we will accomplish. Thank you as always for your support of our research mission.

Ketamine, a New Hope for Depression?, Thursday 21 September 2017

The August issue of Time Magazine features a cover story on depression and one of the latest developments in treatment: ketamine hydrochloride.

We’ve received many inquiries about the controversial new drug and want to share important perspectives from our research team.

What is Ketamine?

First, ketamine is an FDA-approved anesthetic for humans and is also a powerful sedative for horses. There is now growing evidence that the drug can cause a rapid antidepressant effect in many people with severe depression. It can also put an end to suicidal thoughts. For that reason many experts proclaim ketamine as a much-needed breakthrough in depression treatment. Ketamine is fast-acting – an undeniable advantage over current medications — and represents a brand new category of drug that works where existing treatments fail.

However, HDRF Board member Dr. Steven Roose of Columbia University cautions that ketamine use for depression is not approved by the FDA and remains highly experimental. For one, the drug is a powerful hallucinogen that is illicitly used, and abused, as the psychedelic club drug “Special K.”

The pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is currently conducting clinical trials on a nasal spray form of ketamine known as “esketamine.” However, until the trials prove successful, any use of ketamine is off-label. The clinics that deliver ketamine treatment are not regulated, and we do not know the long term effects of regular ketamine use.

HDRF Depression Task Force and Ketamine

Because of ketamines’s promise, and the need to better understand its risks, scientists on our Depression Task Force are studying the compound in the laboratory, along with other novel treatments. Their goal is to understand how ketamine affects key brain circuits and cells. Ultimately the research will help illuminate the molecular underpinnings of depression and the safest and most effective interventions for each individual.

Ketamine has also been featured prominently in our event seminars. Last fall, our Annual Luncheon Seminar focused on “The Search for New Depression Medications” with Yale Chief of Psychiatry Dr. John Krystal, a world-renowned expert on ketamine and its action in the brain.

To view his talk, please click here (his talk starts at 9:38):   https://vimeo.com/209442359

In addition, our HOPE Luncheon Seminar in 2008 featured a discussion of ketamine by Dr. Dennis Charney, Dean of the School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is another world figure in ketamine research.

To view his talk, please click here: https://vimeo.com/216011405.

We hope you find this information useful as the media continues to shed light on new treatments for depression, including ketamine. Our goal is to share all the facts with you so that you can know the risks and benefits of any potential new treatment.

Why We Walk – The Owen Family, Friday 28 July 2017



Alicia Owen is a Special Ed teacher at Southampton Elementary School and a mother of three.  She and her whole family will participate in the Walk of HOPE + 5K Run to Defeat Depression on Saturday, August 5 in Southampton.

They walk because after dealing with depression in their own home,  they want to raise awareness in the local community.

“My husband’s side of the family has a history of anxiety and depression,” she said, “and we’ve noticed symptoms in our middle child, who is 13.”

She described it as a dark and scary time.  Her son Will, athletic and full of life, became withdrawn, lost interest in sports, fell behind in school, and talked about harming himself.

Fortunately, they were able to find mental health care professionals who have really made a difference with a course of treatment that involves therapy and medication.  Alicia and her husband are benefitting from treatment as well.  “He’s a happy kid again, excelling in his passion for surfing” Alicia said.  But her family is still on a mission.

“There needs to be more awareness in the schools and in the community,” she said.  “Too many people are afraid to acknowledge depression publicly.  If our story allows others to feel that they are not alone and gives them the strength to seek help, then we’ve done our job to help get the word out.”

We hope you will join Alicia Owen and her family at the Walk of HOPE + 5K Run to Defeat Depression on Saturday, August 5 in Southampton Village, NY.  Walks starts at 9 AM. Rain or Shine!

Depression touches us all, and you can make a world of difference through your support.

Why We Walk – Dr. Jonathan Javitch, Friday 28 July 2017




Dr. Jonathan Javitch is a brain scientist in great demand:  he is Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Columbia University and a key member of HDRF’s elite Depression Task Force.

On Saturday, August 5 he will be in Southampton with his wife, Dr. Miriam Javitch, an executive coach, to join in the Second Annual Walk of HOPE + 5K Run to Defeat Depression.

“We’re walking because we’ve had people in our family struggle with depression,” said Jonathan.  “I’m a clinical psychiatrist by training as well as a research scientist searching for a better understanding of and new treatments for depression.”

But, he added: “You really confront the horror of the illness when you see somebody you love struggle. We must find answers.”

Jonathan’s commitment is contagious.  Join Jonathan and Miriam at the Walk of HOPE + 5K Run to Defeat Depression on Saturday, August 5 in Southampton Village, NY.  Walks starts at 9 AM. Rain or Shine!