Standard treatments typically help those with depression manage their symptoms, but unfortunately, they don’t work for everyone. About 30% of patients who’ve been prescribed two or more antidepressants don’t see any changes, and are categorized by physicians as having treatment-resistant depression.
Morgan Hewett knows first-hand how devastating this can be.
After experiencing a harrowing event with a loved one who suffers from mental illness, she said her entire viewpoint on treatment changed.
“About a decade ago, one of my closest family members attempted suicide,” Hewett shared with Essence. “And after that my family went on an eight year journey to find him the help that he needed. He bounced around from doctor to doctor. He tried over a dozen medications, none seemed to work. Or even the ones that worked gave him terrible side effects. So he wasn’t able to stay on them long. And that just pushed him and my family further and further into hopelessness, which then resulted in two additional hospitalizations and suicide attempts. If you’re trying and nothing works, of course the end result can be having suicide attempts or ideation. And during that time, I regret to say that I just didn’t have the emotional capacity to be there for him emotionally in the way that I probably should have.
To cope, she said she threw herself into her work, which was the head of Facebook’s (now Meta) health division, an entity she spearheaded.
Although her career was skyrocketing, she learned how terrifying mental illness was when she got hit with her own issues, and ended up having to take a few months off from work.
During that time off, she said she empathized with her loved one in a way she hadn’t before, and was driven to do her own research on how to more effectively provide solutions.
“That harrowing experience inspired the launch of my company, OptionsMD, in which we specifically work with people who are suffering from treatment resistant depression.”
She said on average they primarily focus on patients who have been suffering from depression for at least seven years, have tried over five medications, and sometimes they’re even battling with chronic suicidal ideation, chronic fatigue, and chronic feelings of hopelessness, just as a result of what seems like never ending battle with depression. And we focus on developing software and clinical protocols to help get these patients access to more innovative treatment options that really have the potential to save their life.”
Launched in 2020 alongside co-founder Kyle Pierce, the company has already raised a total of $1.5 million in funding. They work with holistic counselors, behavioral psychologists and psychiatrists to develop wraparound telehealth treatments.
“As a Black-, Latinx-, female-, and LGBTQ-owned company, my cofounder and I look nothing like the VCs that we often pitch to,” Hewett said. “That being said, we feel fortunate to have started our company at a time when VCs are finally acknowledging the importance of investing in both health-tech companies and diverse founders.”
She says that she wants more Black women to have access to important resources that can help scale businesses that can change the world.
“Everyone doesn’t have type of access I’ve had to the investor community, so it’s my duty to reach back and bring a name up in a room that would have otherwise never made it into the door,” Hewett said, also sharing that more VC investments happen through relationships than not. “It takes nothing for me to do a warm hand-off for a Black woman founder. We’re all in this together and need to work as a unit to make our communities amazing places to live in.”