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The chart that explains why one of America’s leading mental health experts is going to Google

FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2006 file photo, National Institute of Mental Health Director Dr. Thomas Insel, left, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. American psychiatrists need to break away from a "culture of influence" created by their financial dealings with the drug industry, Insel said in Journal of the American Medical Association. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)
AP Photo/Dennis Cook
Off to Alphabet.
By Alice Truong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

From 1999 to 2013, the US saw a dramatic decline in deaths due to heart disease and cancer, respectively the country’s first and second leading causes of death. Even mortality rates tied to diabetes, which have risen in recent years, are lower now than in 1999.

But there’s been no such improvement in the mortality rates tied to suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 people per 100,000 in the US died from suicide in 2013, up from 10.5 in 1999, making it the 10th-leading cause of death in the US.

And that’s a big reason why Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health for the past 13 years, is joining the Life Sciences division of Alphabet, the newly formed parent company of Google.

“We’re not seeing any reduction in mortality in terms of suicide because we’re not giving people the care that they need,” he said in a recent interview with Fusion. “We would never allow this to happen for cancer, for heart disease, for diabetes.”

But Insel, who starts at Alphabet next week, is optimistic about the role technology—including sensors, akin to Fitbit trackers, to monitor wearers’ behaviors—might play in helping to treat mental illness, telling Fusion that it “could transform this area in the next five years.”

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