Guest Bloggers

  • Louisa Benton

    Executive Director

  • Steven P. Roose, M.D

    Professor of Clinical Psychiatry

  • Huda Akil, Ph.D

    DTF Chair

Ketamine, a New Hope for Depression?,
September 21, 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):

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:

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,
July 28, 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,
July 28, 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!

Score two tickets to Hamilton, the hottest show on Broadway!,
July 7, 2017

How can you score two tickets to Hamilton, the hottest show on Broadway?!

Join us for the WALK OF HOPE to Defeat Depression Saturday, August 5 in Southampton, NY. You can choose to Walk or Run the three mile course. Register today and you will have a chance to win two prime orchestra seats to the 11 Tony Award-Winning phenomenon!!

But step lively! You must register early to be eligible to win. We’ll pick the winner from a random drawing of all WALK/RUN participants who register before July 14. We’ll announce the lucky winner right before setting out on the three-mile loop around beautiful Lake Agawam in Southampton.*

So click here to register today. Registration is just $50 and includes a commemorative hat and t-shirt.

Walk with us to win tickets to Hamilton AND to raise awareness and funds for the most innovative depression research today!

Walk with us because:

  • Depression affects 20 million adults in the US each year
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
  • The causes of depression are still unknown
  • 50% of people do not respond to existing medications

Walk with us because HDRF is working to change that. As the leading non-profit organization focused solely on depression research, we are at the forefront of finding answers and defeating depression.

100% of all proceeds go directly to research!

We look forward to walking with you on August 5!


If you have any questions or need help signing in or registering for the walk/run, please email us at or call us at 212.676.3205.