Field Tripping

Precision Mental Health | Zak Williams & Dr. Raghu Appasani

Episode Summary

On this episode we are joined by guests Zak Williams, son of the late actor/comedian Robin Williams, and the founder of the MINDS Foundation, psychiatrist Dr. Raghu Appasani. They discussed their service and advocacy for mental health, their own mental health journeys, psychedelics, the importance of nutrition, and more! After Zak’s father’s death in 2014, Zak’s anxiety became extreme, leading to severe depression and alcohol/substance abuse. While he thankfully got sober, it didn’t solve everything. Through extensive research, he discovered the wealth of botanical adaptogens and amino acid complexes to help recalibrate and heal his mind and body, which led to opening PYM (“Prepare Your Mind”) - his company which produces “mood chews” - which he co-founded with his wife. He hired psychiatrist, neuroscientist, mental health advocate, and entrepreneur, Dr. Raghu Appasani as the Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Raghu also founded the MINDS Foundation, a mental health nonprofit committed to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness through education, training, and providing access to cost-effective, high quality care. This is a very important episode you don’t want to miss!

Episode Notes

On this episode we are joined by guests Zak Williams, son of the late actor/comedian Robin Williams, and the founder of the MINDS Foundation, psychiatrist Dr. Raghu Appasani. They discussed their service and advocacy for mental health, their own mental health journeys, psychedelics, the importance of nutrition, and more! After Zak’s father’s death in 2014, Zak’s anxiety became extreme, leading to severe depression and alcohol/substance abuse. While he thankfully got sober, it didn’t solve everything. Through extensive research, he discovered the wealth of botanical adaptogens and amino acid complexes to help recalibrate and heal his mind and body, which led to opening PYM (“Prepare Your Mind”) - his company which produces “mood chews” - which he co-founded with his wife. He hired psychiatrist, neuroscientist, mental health advocate, and entrepreneur, Dr. Raghu Appasani as the Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Raghu also founded the MINDS Foundation, a mental health nonprofit committed to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness through education, training, and providing access to cost-effective, high quality care. This is a very important episode you don’t want to miss!


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Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Zak: So my journey around having mental health dysregulation, anxiety, depression, addiction is part of that, led me to becoming an advocate not only for mental health, but for precision-oriented solutions. That's really what I stand for, is for any given individual, whether it's trauma experience, um, uh, their natural makeup, deficiencies they might experience through their genetics or what have you, there's an opportunity to have a collection of support mechanisms and protocols that can enable that person to feel like their best selves.

[00:00:37] Ronan: Hello everyone, and welcome to Field Tripping. Today's episode features two wonderful guests, Zak Williams, co-founder and CEO of PYM, and son of the late actor Robin [00:01:00] Williams, and the Chief Medical Officer of PYM, as well as founder of The MINDS Foundation psychiatrist Dr. Raghu Appasani. Our conversation takes us all over the place, for matters reasonably germane, to psychedelics- and as you listen, you'll understand those choice of words- to precision mental health, to what supplements you can be taking to enhance your mental health, to the reasons we do, well, just about everything. Before we get started on our conversation though, I wanted to remind our listeners to subscribe to our podcast so you never miss an episode. And right now we're running a contest where you can win a pair of apple AirPods along with some Field Trip, swag. It's all very exciting. Head over to our Instagram page at Field Trip Health and enter for your chance to win. Also, in this episode, we will be kicking off a new 'how to' segment, where listeners can ask a question for me to answer. So, if you have a question about mental health, psychedelics, or anything we've chatted about, drop us a note at, [00:02:00] or leave a voice recording at But before we hop into the conversation with Zak and Raghu, let's hit up some news to trip over.

The city of Seattle, Washington became the latest city to formally decriminalize use and possession of psychedelics and entheogens. Seattle becomes the ninth city to decriminalize psychedelics and joins Denver, Washington, Ann Arbor, and others, and is the largest city yet by population to pass such a measure, which was approved unanimously by Seattle City Council. Excitingly, Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who sponsored the effort, said it was the first step in the city's move to change its drug policies, stating "Our overall goal is to follow the lead of Oregon." Also exciting is the fact that this vote times identically with the opening of the Seattle location of Field Trip Health, our sixth location in the US. A recent [00:03:00] study published in the journal, psychopharmacology, looked at the safety and psychological effects of LSD at different doses (25, 50, 100, and 200 micrograms). The study found that while the intensity of subjective effects increases with higher doses of LSD, the intensity of adverse effects did not change. It also found that the positive drug effects seem to plateau around a hundred micrograms, while negative drug effects were found to occur at 200 micrograms. Finally, in a personal anecdote, I recently participated in Code, a technology conference held annually that brings together some of the biggest luminaries in tech. This year's Code conference included Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, neurologist and host of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris, and the inimitable Elon Musk. In addition to presenting on a panel with Joe Green, from the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative and Sanjay Singhal, founder of the [00:04:00] Nikean Foundation- who will be joining us on this podcast shortly- I had the opportunity to ask a question of Elon, during his talk. If you want to see the full exchange, check it out on Instagram and Twitter at @fieldtriphealth, but the long and the short of it is that Elon stated openly that people should be open to using psychedelic medicines. While he is only one person, Musk clearly has the ability to significantly influence global trends, and it's my hope that his comments will engage many dinner table conversations around the world. And with that said, let's turn back to our wonderful guests, Zak and Raghu. Zak's mission is to help the world take care of their mental health, a path that began after the unexpected loss of his father, actor and comedian Robin Williams. On his journey, he started the company PYM, prepare your mind. And has worked to give back alongside organizations like Bring Change to Mind, to end the stigma around mental health. His beliefs are rooted in the idea that everyone [00:05:00] can be the best version of themselves simply by establishing daily rituals that support their mind and overall wellbeing. These values are echoed by Raghu Appasani, psychiatrist, neuroscientist, mental health advocate, and Founder of The MINDS Foundation, committed to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness through education, training, and providing accessible high quality care. It's really heartwarming to have two individuals here today who are so dedicated to a better life for all. Zak and Raghu, thank you for joining us today and welcome to Field Tripping. First question for you guys, uh, Elon Musk talking psychedelics. Needle moving event, or big whoop de do about nothing? Go. 

[00:05:44] Raghu: I love that. Uh, well, you know, I, I am a fan of psychedelics. I do research on psychedelics and I think that they are a huge frontier for treatment in mental health. It's really great to have someone who has such a [00:06:00] voice in this space and in terms of trending, trend-setting, like you mentioned, to say something, but I do want to say that, uh, it's not necessarily for everybody, but at the very least it is stimulating conversations, so I'm a fan. 

[00:06:14] Ronan: Cool. 

[00:06:14] Zak: I'm all for it. I think it's great that, that Elon wants to advocate for psychedelics. He's known for being on the leading edge of technology and, and experiences, and when it comes to mental health and neuroscience, psychedelics are certainly on the leading edge, and so I think it's validating a very important category of support. 

[00:06:36] Ronan: Cool. That's good. It was interesting watching the, um, feedback on Twitter. There was a large camp of psychedelic enthusiasts or psychedelic investors who were very, very excited about Elon just touching on the subject. Uh, and then there's a whole bunch of people who are just like, who cares, like Elon, whatever Elon Musk doesn't necessarily- whatever Elon Musk [00:07:00] touches doesn't necessarily turn to gold, uh, and we've definitely seen his, uh, impact on the Bitcoin market, um, both being positive and negative. So we'll see. But my hope is that the more people who are talking about it, and if, even if Elon Musk talks about it positively there negatively, it still advances the conversation, which to me is the most important thing right now. All right. Now onto more important stuff. Zak, happy almost one year anniversary. Uh how's the first year of marriage been and honestly answer, has it enhanced or challenged your mental health? Uh, although that sounds like a cheeky question, it's not actually. My personal experience with marriage, having been with Stephanie, my wife for 10 years and married for five of that, is that marriage has the capacity to challenge and expand and help you grow in ways I'd never thought possible, but it's not always easy.

[00:07:50] Zak: This first year of marriage has been phenomenal. Um, both Olivia and myself, uh, are going, you know, we're on our [00:08:00] second time round so we really have a vested interest in doing things the way that we believe we can do them, and as, uh, as open and, uh, and clear-eyed a way as possible when it comes to, uh, being parents, when it comes to seeking to not only work together effectively, but also grow together as people and as partners. So we ended up tying the knot on 10/10/2020, that was World Mental Health Day 2020. It was actually a coincidence. Um, but the fact of the matter is it, it is relevant and salient to our work. And, uh, and it's important for us to continue to focus not only on our mental health, the quality of our partnership [00:09:00] and the mental health benefits from that, and also thinking about kind of what's next, how do we continue collaborating and working together to do the best things we can do and be the best version of ourselves. That's how I'd frame it. So, so far so good. 

[00:09:16] Ronan: Uh, that's a good answer. I certainly find marriage to be- you know, all relationships in my mind are, are really just mirrors that you can hold up and reflect against yourself. But with most relationships, uh, being in like non spousal relationships specifically, you can always walk away. You don't see that person all the time. So whatever that reflection you get you see is you can always look away pretty quickly, but, uh, in, in a marriage or a long-term relationship, you don't get that, that space. It's always there. And so as challenging as marriages can be, sometimes they are definitely a big drivers of personal growth. There's absolutely no doubt about that in my mind. 

[00:09:54] Zak: I couldn't agree more. From our perspective, we're also coworkers. [00:10:00] She's the co-founder of PYM. And so we have space for our relationship, space for our professional aspirations, and space as parents. And I think really what we're seeking to do in this next year, and following years, is to figure out how we can really take a generative approach towards all those, all of those verticals of how we partner, right? And, uh, when I say take that generative approach, I mean, how can we grow as people and in our relationship through all the many different facets of it? I think that's, that's essential to how we think about, and think about our relationship and operate as humans. 

[00:10:43] Ronan: Cool. And Zak, thank you for clarifying that the 10/10/2020 was actually coincidentally, because I was going to ask that very specific question. Um, cause it's, it's so germane to what you guys do, um, but uh, there's nothing wrong with a little, um, coincidence here [00:11:00] and there. Um, all right-

[00:11:02] Zak: Ronan, can I just say, your using the word germane made my day. Um, I, I happen to love the phrase 'reasonably germane'. And you mentioning germane, just, uh, lit up my day. Thank you. 

[00:11:24] Ronan: My pleasure. What, uh, what is it about the word germane that tickles your insides? 

[00:11:31] Zak: What tickles my insides about germane? The fact that you can say, "tickles your insides about germane." Um, as a word, uh, it it's, it's very specific and yet it, it, it enables, uh, it enables you to bring light to what the word actually means because, uh, often is [00:12:00] the case. When you say, Hey this is germane to the conversation, people kind of get it, but don't really get it. And you get to talk further about germane. And I know someone named Jermaine, it's just a great word. I love that word. 

[00:12:16] Ronan: Yeah, that's awesome. You know what? Uh, I had a similar experience. It wasn't in a conversation, but, um, I had my first ever ketamine assisted therapy experience last week when I was in LA, actually for Code Conference. I couldn't do it in Toronto, where I'm based, because in Canada the guidance around the medical justification is much more restrictive for, for ketamine, uh, where it's much more flexible than in the US and, and just the requirements needed to be satisfied are lower. Uh, And so I'm writing, you know, a guest post that will hopefully get into like a Fast Company or something along those lines, about what it's like to have a ketamine experience, because one of the big pieces of feedback I got from the Code Conference was that most people [00:13:00] don't really understand it, it's still pretty scary, not even ketamine, just psychedelics more broadly. Um, and in, in the article, I got to use the word prosaic, uh, in context and in a way that I think most people understand. And I was like, that's pretty cool. Like that word, it's got a nice little roll off the tongue, prosaic, and you sound smart, but, uh, in the context that- anyway, totally unrelated, uh, All right. You've both dedicated your lives to mental health. Um, tell me about, uh, the journeys to get here. I mean, Raghu, it sounds like you've been doing this for a long time, having gone to med school and all that kind of stuff, but tell me about your path to, to this conversation right now, because obviously this is the culminating experience in your life, um, so you know, everything has led up to this particular moment. Um, no, seriously, uh, but would love to hear about your journey. 

[00:13:53] Raghu: Yeah, this is, this is the moment right now on, on Field Trip, on Field Trip's podcast with Ronan. I mean, [00:14:00] um, well, thanks for having us, first of all, and you know, I did start pretty early. My dad's actually a biochemist. Um, so he has a PhD in biochemistry. And with that, he got me working in research labs pretty early. Um, I think it was freshman year of high school I started working at Harvard Medical School at Children's Hospital and doing some research on the stem cell theory around cancer and pediatric brain tumors. And from there kind of went on and did a lot of research in neuroscience, and it's something that really piqued my interest because it was so mysterious. Like, we have this organ, the brain, but then we have emotions and thoughts and feelings. And how does this all work? Like it's still a mystery to me. And I think it's still a mystery to a lot of us. And it's this like unknown frontier. So I started working a lot, doing some of that, like hardcore molecular neuroscience work, and even with animal work and, [00:15:00] um, trying to develop new ways to deal with addiction and depression pathways. And I truly loved it, but there was something missing for me and it was this, how do we take what we're doing here and actually make it accessible and scale it. Um, I got struck with mental health in the family with one of my cousins in India, uh, having his first psychotic break. And at the time I was volunteering in India and things kind of came together and I was exposed to a lot of the stigma within the space, within my own family, and within the culture as well. And that's how I started my nonprofit organization, The MINDS Foundation in 2010, and it's been a journey that's opened the door for a lot of things for me. Um, I also got, you know, running a business when I was 19 or 20 and starting that up and learning how to do a lot of those things was great, but I kept doing the research alongside the whole journey and it wasn't [00:16:00] until I was in it that I was able to really gain insight into my own mental health struggle and my own anxiety that I was dealing with. Eventually I went to medical school and while I was in medical school, I really dealt with a lot of my anxieties, and imposter syndrome, and specifically just, you know, a lot of us who are quote unquote, high functioning, we've used our anxiety to drive us to where we are, but eventually you get to a point where you have to face it and deal with it and develop healthy coping mechanisms. And so that's the journey that I've been on, and, you know, I am now finishing up my residency in psychiatry, I'm doing research in the psychedelic space, and the nutritional psychiatry space, alternative ways of treatment, um, had the honor of meeting Zak during the COVID pandemic actually. We kind of became friends during that time period. And, um, he approached me as he was starting PYM and I've been able to be involved with PYM as [00:17:00] a Chief Medical Officer, but I'm pretty sure we also come up with like a hundred ideas on a daily basis outside of that. So for me right now, the journey is, I'm taking everything I've learned in my own experience, continuing on it, and figuring out how do we create a world that like, people can access all of these resources. And access them at an affordable way as well, and really just better their lives.

[00:17:26] Ronan: Right. Um, there's a couple of things, actually, I want to sort of dig into there, which is, how did you, how did you learn to, uh, address your anxiety and those mental health challenges, um, during med school, I mean, that sounds like a particularly challenging time and during which to, uh, figure out how to navigate those. And, and then the second question, um, which is probably more challenging, but, um, you said, you know, it's about learning how to, and sorry, I'm paraphrasing, but you said it's about learning how to cope with them, [00:18:00] finding coping mechanisms. And I guess my experience and my pathways and my work with psychedelics, you know, has kind of opened me up to that, that that may be not the right way to think about it. It's not about learning to cope with them. It's about learning to heal the underlying drivers. I mean, some degree of anxiety is natural, right? Like there's an instinctual- if there's a lion behind me, I should be shit scared and run away, you know, in a healthy anxiety kind of way. And then there's the kind of anxiety that I think you're kind of touching on, certainly the ones I experienced, of like, it's deeper. It's kind of like, there's an inherent flaw in us that makes us constantly feel inadequate or, you know, imposter syndrome and all that kind of stuff. And so it feels like coping is definitely one strategy. Um, but may not be the ideal one. So there's two, two questions in there that- 

[00:18:50] Raghu: Yeah, you know, I love that question. And I think traditionally in therapy too, as like CBT, for example, which I'm not a huge fan of, I mean, it works for a lot of people, but [00:19:00] it, it really, it really stresses the healthy coping mechanisms, right? And I think for me, in my journey too, thinking back, I had unhealthy coping mechanisms at different points, whether it was like drinking alcohol or, you know, making decisions that I wasn't- that weren't good for me. Um, but for me, the biggest thing honestly, was building community around myself. And having a support network and a support system, and that was huge. Um, and things like meditation and yoga and just physical fitness, and what I ate started to become really important. And I say this as if it sounds so easy, right? But this is a journey of over multiple years that I had to do. And it's not like it was a linear path that was growing. Um, there's dips as well. So it's not easy. And your point about healing, I find to be really important. And I'll say that for me, the psychedelic experiences that I've had [00:20:00] have helped me heal and many ways. I think they helped me get out of those stuck patterns of rumination and the loops, um, in particular. And that helps me heal, but I still do need to have these other mechanisms in place to continue that journey, right? The psychedelic is sort of a catalyst, but I still have to have these other mechanisms to continue to heal and continue to be able to deal with those stressors as they come up. 

[00:20:27] Ronan: Totally. Oh, that's an entirely fair answer. I appreciate that, Zak, uh, curious to know about your path into mental health. Uh, you know, I have a feeling it's, it's a much more publicly on record, but, um, uh, you know, I'd love to hear, uh, you know, your, your journey. 

[00:20:45] Zak: Sure. Um, well, my journey with mental health started as a child. Uh, I, I had OCD as a kid, um, something that contributed to insomnia [00:21:00] and, uh, was a bit of a forcing mechanism around me, finding opportunities to relieve that obsessive thinking and the anxiety associated with it, through my teens and adolescence. Um, from an early age, I discovered self-medication specifically using things like alcohol to manage that anxiety. Uh, and, uh, throughout my twenties, um, I kind of grew out of the OCD thing, but really found myself being more and more anxious and, uh, and reaching bouts of depression. All this came to a head after my dad died by suicide. I found myself experiencing, uh, the detrimental effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism manifesting in a progressive manner. Um, meaning it was there [00:22:00] and managed to really rear more of its ugly head through my being diagnosed with PTSD, finding myself self-medicating in a major way using alcohol and having nothing really get better for me personally. Um, through that experience, I realized a couple of things. One is I could support, uh, the underlying stress, anxiety and bouts of depression through a commitment to service, specifically mental health advocacy was something I discovered was really helpful for me. And then coinciding with that, I realized that if I actually took alcohol out of the equation, I was still stressed and anxious and kind of not feeling great and, uh, and actually discovered alternative ways to manage my wellbeing and, uh, through, uh, the discovery of amino acid [00:23:00] formulations, actually found ways to balance my neuro-transmitter environment. And I discovered what it means to actually establish neuro-transmitter health as a priority. And that was the genesis of PYM, so, you know, I realized that there are safe, healthy, natural ways to manage mental health using not only active compounds, but also natural active compounds, but also, um, uh, applying a mental health hygiene ritual to manage one's wellbeing. Um, through that journey, I started learning about other protocols and became a supporter of psychedelics. And, uh, and developed an understanding that there is a mosaic of mental health-supporting compounds, experiences, exercises that can be applied to provide precision solutions for an [00:24:00] individual. So my journey around having mental health disregulation anxiety, depression, addiction as part of that, led me to becoming an advocate, not only for mental health, but for precision oriented solutions. That's really what I stand for is for any given individual, whether it's trauma experience, um, uh, their natural makeup deficiencies they might experience through their genetics or what have you, there's an opportunity to have a collection of support mechanisms and protocols that can enable that person to feel like their best selves. And that's kind of what PYM is all about. Um, we really want to get people into their flow and, uh, It just so happens it took a personal journey and, uh, you know, some trauma, some, uh, catastrophe and, uh, and all that mixed in with my personal experience and orientation led me [00:25:00] down a path of really discovering that service is happiness and mental health advocacy is what I need to be doing moving forward.

[00:25:07] Ronan: Kind of sound like the Dalai Lama based on the various [inaudible], um, but you're right. I mean, it's funny. Cause like I, I get caught, caught up in, um, you know, the, the notions of service as being, you know, something that is important and valuable and meaningful. Um, while at the same time, you know, still trying to give credence to the fact that it's okay to have desires and be selfish sometimes. And, and, you know, I guess there's that paradox of like, what is the right balance? Because when you see people in total service, they go into martyrhood and that's not a healthy mental health space. Um, but where's the balance, how have you found that, that balance? 

[00:25:58] Zak: It all ties [00:26:00] into service, actually, if you think about it. Really, what you need to do is you need to show up for yourself, whether that involves pursuing desires or the like, so that you can fill your cup and then focus on the thing that matters, which are connecting in meaningful ways with people, applying your talents, skill, expertise, to be of service, and then turn that creates a self-fulfilling loop. Um, yeah, I'd say show up for yourself, do the things you need to do to take care of yourself, so that you can show up for others. Um, that's, that's my pathos, you know, to each their own, I am in no place to judge, but I really feel that people need to pursue passions, desires and the likes, so that they can feel fulfilled enough at least to then show up for others.

[00:26:48] Ronan: But judgment is so much fun. No, I'm just kidding. I think that's a very sincere answer. Um, how did you break the destructive cycles? Like, uh, you know, clearly the [00:27:00] suicide of your father must have been traumatic to a degree that is incalculable, um, and I'm sure that sends you on a downward spiral and for a lot of people pulling out of that downward spiral is challenging if truthfully not impossible.

[00:27:17] Zak: Um, yeah. So for me, it really related to feeling very dysregulated and isolated and just in a state that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy, you know? Um, I, I just was in a bit of a dire strait and, um, and so I stopped drinking cold turkey, um, because I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. And, um, and then through the, through the grace of some friends of mine, was able [00:28:00] to connect into alcoholics anonymous. That was very helpful for me personally. I've been exposed to it in the past, but didn't really embrace what it had to offer me specifically. I realized that what it was actually enabling for me was the opportunity to look at the underlying symptoms of my abusing alcohol, and understanding what it was that I was experiencing that led me down a path of self-medicating, not wanting to feel. Wanting to feel oblivion. And so the first step for me- and they actually came almost in tandem, was stopping drinking, that that actually came after I discovered commitment to mental health advocacy as being very supportive for the trauma, but, but they were mutually supportive and, uh, enabled me to really take a clear-eyed approach to taking care of myself. And that process started [00:29:00] just over five years ago. Um, and, uh, and really what it looked like was a bottoming out, was just not feeling like I needed to be around. Having suicidal ideation, going through an experience where I'm asking myself, would things be different if I just wasn't around, you know? I, I just, I just was losing meaning in my day-to-day life. And so fortunately I found an enormous amount of meaning in, uh, in my life. Um, but that was a journey. And what I'm realizing in hindsight is that journey was one that, um, was, uh, it contained a lot of joy and, and insight and, uh, and with something that I wish I had [00:30:00] more understanding of how appreciative I, I could be being present and in the moment. That was a very wordy sentence, but the point is, I wish I had been more present through the early stages of that understanding, that service, sobriety, recovery, all these things work towards a greater good for me personally, you know? It just, it just felt like it happened, but there was for lack of a better word, a guidance there, a path that I felt, um, availed itself to me is I decided to stop self-medicating. 

[00:30:53] Ronan: Cool. Thank you for sharing. Your you're mention that, um, the path, [00:31:00] if I heard you correctly, it was the path, the service that was that first step that kind of enabled the rest. Is that, is that right? Like once you kind of realized service was like an essential part of it that kind of opened up the possibilities for the rest?

[00:31:13] Zak: So that can actually ca- the insight that service was actually really healing for the trauma came after I discovered committing to mental health advocacy was something that was helpful for me, because ultimately what it helped was it gave me a strong dose of purpose that would propel me forward. Um, it just so happens that when I looked, looked at it in hindsight, I was like, oh, wow. It was that commitment to service that was very healing for me. 

[00:31:45] Ronan: Yeah. It's a, it's a story that resonates on some levels, uh, for me personally, a little bit different, but I've never been clinically diagnosed as having any mental health condition and part because I [00:32:00] never, you know, at the times when I felt probably my worst, I would never be inclined to go see a doctor about it. You know, that was just something that was not on, um, at the time. But I can point to a particular point in my life when I was an articling student, uh, working at a law firm in Bay Street and I was fucking miserable. Like, I was at the lowest point of my life. Like, I'm sure if I had gone to a doctor, they would have diagnosed me as being clinically depressed. And I remember it was January 2nd, January 2nd, of 2006 and the apartment building I lived in, um, had a pool, and I remember lying in the pool, just dreading having to get up the next day. Uh, and, um, and just had this realization that achieving your goals is a lot less important than feeling like you're making progress towards your goals. Um, and so I made the decision that, uh, at the time I was like, I want to play in a band again, I'm not a very good musician, but in high school I played in a band, and it was like [00:33:00] the most fulfilling, enjoyable aspects of my life. And I'm like, I'm gonna play in a band again. And, you know, I listed three or four things that are just really wanted to do. Um, and I had no idea if any of them would come to fruition, but feeling like I was making progress to the things I wanted was more important than anything else. And that shifted everything for me. And so it sounds like you kind of had a similar type of experience with mental health advocacy as being like the reason to break from the, the path that you were on. So it's, it's a really cool story. 

[00:33:34] Zak: Oh, thanks. Yeah. Look, I could have continued along the path of being depressed and anxious and sort of functioning as an alcoholic and, and, you know, finding, you know, a continued path and my career, which, you know, at the time was consumer technology and [00:34:00] media and could have gone down that could have continued. Right? You know, many people do that and they manage okay. But it wasn't growth oriented. I wasn't finding, uh, a lot of meaning from it. And I really just wanted to get, get to the point at any, on any day, on any given day, I just want to get to the point where I could be alone and just drink myself to oblivion and what what's, what meaning is there in that? Um, so, you know, the, the fortunate thing is I have great community, great friends, great family, a really loving wife, you know, great kids, you know, there's just so much to, to, um, to beyond live for, there's just so much to be focused around growing for. 

[00:34:53] Ronan: Yeah. 

[00:34:54] Raghu: And now we can listen to Ronan's band on Spotify. 

[00:34:58] Ronan: I can share you [00:35:00] our old recordings, they're pretty atrocious, but, uh, uh, happy to do so. Um, uh, there's a lot more that I want to go into that cause like I, I know one of the questions that I've written down is, um, uh, is about, you know, the future of mental health and I'm going to get very esoteric on that question. I'd love to get your thoughts, but before we go down that path, you mentioned, and maybe this is a question for Raghu, but both of you, um, precision mental health, uh, I think is what you said. What exactly does that mean? And how does that come about? 

[00:35:34] Raghu: You know, I love this question and, uh, Zak and I have been talking about this for a while now, but here's the thing. If we think about the current landscape of how we treat mental health, you know, we have therapy, we have pharmacology, pharmacological agents, and then we have what is bucketed as complimentary alternative medicine, right? Yoga, breath work, mindfulness, maybe even some of the [00:36:00] psychedelics are in there, but they're moving more into mainstream areas. 

[00:36:04] Ronan: Yeah. 

[00:36:06] Raghu: But the thing is each individual and human is so unique in their mental health journey and no one fits a category in the DSM. So the way that we're treating, we're diagnosing, we're treating and we're seeing people with mental health conditions or not as individuals. And what precision mental health does is it allows us to take the lens of saying, let's look at the individual in front of us and figure out who they are, at a genetic level, at a spiritual level, emotional level, psychological level, and tailor a treatment accordingly to them, right? So it might not be this one specific drug or something like that. And we have genetic testing to help us guide a little bit more than that. So there are some tools that are developing like GeneSight or GeneaMed or whatever it is. And then we do have a lot of, you know, consumer technology [00:37:00] like Fitbits and activity trackers that can help us gain insight, or sleep trackers. So it's really about, when I think precision mental health care, I think about how do we integrate all of these technologies to have a better understanding of people at an individual level, so then we can offer them treatments that really work for them. And to go a little bit deeper into that is actually, how do we also figure out balances of neuro-transmitters of genes, of proteins, of hormones, and actually create supplementary compounds that can help basically adjunct and run in parallel with one's life to help them really function at their best selves. 

[00:37:45] Zak: Raghu, we'll have a question for you. Yeah. What, when you, when you say the word adjuncts, what does that mean to you?

[00:37:51] Raghu: Oh, when I say adjunct, so it's basically working in line with whatever else the person is doing. So it's really just like- 

[00:37:57] Ronan: It's quite germane. 

[00:37:58] Raghu: Okay. You're [00:38:00] like [laughter], it's like you're running a marathon and you're getting a little bit tired, but this thing can help you kind of get to the finish line. 

[00:38:09] Ronan: Where are we in terms of the science, um, along those lines? And there's two questions, which is like, I'd just love to know, like, how close are we to getting to, you know, pretty good evidence-based treatments, because when I talked to most, you know, family practitioners- but a lot of this stuff we're talking about, you know- they're kind of like, uh, I can't remember who it was, I was just speaking to someone today who like, um, I think they were diagnosed with cancer or something along those lines, like a terrible diagnosis and their doctor, and they're like, what should I do from a nutrition perspective? And the doctor was like, it doesn't matter, just take your chemo. Right? And, and, you know, through like nutrition, nutrition aspect, um, it obviously it had a significant impact on it. But part of the problem, part of the problem is education. There's no doubt about that. But part of the problem is that the, the support of data probably isn't quite as [00:39:00] robust as we'd like it. And I certainly anticipate that's the case when it comes to precision mental health, and all of these adjunct treatments. So, so where are we in terms of the scientific landscape for that? And how far do you think we have to go from here? 

[00:39:14] Zak: Can we, can we just define some considerations first before we go into, before we go on to specifically answering that question? I think it's important to understand that there's a diagnostic element that very much relates to the data, and then there's a protocol intervention element. And without the appropriate diagnostic elements, you can't even really, really think, uh, or think about meaningfully addressing the issues with interventions. Right? So, so historically in the healthcare industry, a lot of data environments were silent, right? 

[00:39:55] Ronan: Yeah. 

[00:39:55] Zak: They were with your general practitioner with [00:40:00] your insurer, your provider, with your healthcare system. This, and, you know, your, the inputs that you're giving might might relate to, uh, a visit to your doctor. It's not real time continuous, you know, data inputs that then, uh, have a learning layer applied to that, that enables you to get a better understanding of what your baseline is and what decision X or Y does to your baseline. You know, so, so I first want to define the diagnostic and data component of it before actually discussing intervention. And I actually need to defer to Raghu on this because, you know, I could talk about it all day, but, but not nearly as eloquently as Raghu. 

[00:40:46] Raghu: Yeah. Listen, the research is there. And the unfortunate part of it is that a lot of this research on supplementation and nutritional supplementation is limited to the fact that basically what Zak said, they're siloed in, [00:41:00] you know, individual clinician's clinics and situations like that. And unfortunately the big data is supported by larger institutions that have the money and the funding to put behind it. Now, I just want to preface all this by saying like, there is a huge benefit to traditional medicine that we use, like chemo, right? And antidepressants and anti-anxiety anxiety medications. They're not necessarily for everybody, but they are indicated in certain situations. What we're seeing is there is research now that is evidence-based where you can supplement with nutrition and you can supplement with natural products to replace things like GABA and glutamate and serotonin in your body, and basically do what some of these medications do, but in a natural way that with less side effects. What we really need to do is create a landscape that supports that kind of research. And we can democratize that research and make it more available and [00:42:00] actually put whether it's financial resources or manpower or time behind it, and actually bring light to all of that work that has been done and continues to be done 

[00:42:11] Zak: Piggybacking off that is the idea that there is a stage process relating to precision support. If you've got an issue relating to trauma and the, like, it would most likely benefit you if you managed the balance your neurotransmitter environment before you dig into, say, the trauma with guided psychedelic trips, for example. For example, but all sorts of other opportunities, you know? So, so the question is, how do you want to stage out the healing process, right? What, what historically has happened and, I'm not blaming anyone here, but what historically has happened is, you know, a script will be written and, you know, it will relate to some sort of [00:43:00] curative intervention in the sense that of saying you take this, this product and you don't need to do anything else. You take it in isolation and that's supposed to fix you. And the challenge with that is it doesn't deal with some of the underlying issues. You know, you're taking any depressant, that's not dealing with trauma, right? You know, your, your, your, you balance, your neurotransmitter environment, whether it's with supplementation or SSRI's, what have you, and you still have your experience that you're processing and cycling through, you know, that's a challenge. To credit for companies like Field Trip that are saying, Hey, you know, there's a systems based approach that needs to be applied here, it just so happens that psychedelics are a part of it, you know? From our end, you know, we take the nutritional psychiatry approach, but that's just one input of what needs to be considered a mosaic [00:44:00] of opportunity and protocols that help heal the individual as a whole.

[00:44:06] Raghu: So, you know, basically what it means is a patient or a person comes into my office and we figure out what's going on, and then we say, all right, there's an imbalance here in your neuro-transmitters. Here's a nutritional plan that we can try or work together and develop this. And then we get you to a state where perhaps therapy will be really beneficial, right, in parallel with this, but maybe you need a little catalyst. Maybe you need a psychedelic experience to kind of boost you into getting the most effective therapy possible. But it's not just that the psychedelic experience is going to solve the problem either. It's about how do you actually create this mosaic that works together for that individual? 

[00:44:48] Zak: Yeah. You know? And so, uh, from, from my lens, all these emerging opportunities, experience, uh, experiences, services, [00:45:00] protocols, interventions, whatever you want to call them, however they're defined, work in concert to support the individual in their entirety.

[00:45:09] Ronan: Totally. Uh, I, a hundred percent agree, you know, I think, uh, I think it was, I read a book by David Suzuki. I don't know if David Suzuki has made it on the radar in the US but he's a Canadian environmentalist and he wrote a book called good, uh, Good News For a Change. I read this about 15 years ago or so. And one of the things he talked about was like, part of the challenges that we have in, you know, any number of modern scientific fields, certainly in medicine, uh, and certainly in, in neuroscience and psychiatry is, you know, this, this notion of Newtonian physics, that every action and reaction can be isolated and addressed individually, but humanity, biology, nature, it's a complex system. And every time we try to fix one particular aspect of it and often just creates ripple effects. And so if you're [00:46:00] not looking at it from a systemic perspective, you're always just going to be putting out fires as, as you go from solving one to the other. Not always, but it, it becomes a big challenge. Um, nutritional psychiatry, which is a term that, uh, I really haven't heard before. Can you, Raghu, can you give like nuts and bolts of like, if I want to be conscious about what I should be eating to, um, you know, maximize my mental health and wellbeing, and I get like this, the answer to this question is the exact opposite of precision medicine, but like, what are, what are some good, basic principles that people should be thinking about? Uh, you know, people listening to this podcast, what kind of nutritional considerations should they be thinking about? 

[00:46:47] Raghu: Well, first of all, I'm honored that I introduced you to a new term. I'd never thought that would happen. Uh, so some of the foods that I would highly [00:47:00] recommend is, you know, we'll actually take, take a step back and look at your plate when you sit down for a meal and try to count the number of different colors that are on your plate. Most modern Western diets, you're probably not going to have much diversity. And that's where you can make the first big change is actually adding color. And what I mean by that is putting in leafy greens, putting in, you know, things like peppers, with different colors, tomatoes, just really diversifying with fruit and vegetables as much as you can, because those are the things that really have the basic building blocks to make your hormones and neurotransmitters, right? They carry the amino acids and nutrients and minerals that you need. So that's the simplest way that someone can make a change is just looking at their plate and then starting to add color to it. 

[00:47:48] Ronan: Right. 

[00:47:49] Zak: May add something? 

[00:47:50] Raghu: Please do. 

[00:47:51] Zak: Yeah. Um, 

[00:47:52] Ronan: Can you add some color please? 

[00:47:54] Zak: Another level is to understand what your underlying, uh, issues you [00:48:00] might be experiencing are. Are you experiencing a lot of anxiety and overwhelm? Are you depressed? Are you having a lot of low energy days? Is there issues, are there issues with your thyroid, the, you know, adrenal glands, things like that? The more, the more insight you have into your own personal issues, the more that, that, uh, a diet or a, an approach can be tailored. For instance, for anxiety, which is a lot of what I deal with still, um, I've managed to significantly reduce it through, uh, understanding that my GABA system was, I was simply not synthesizing enough GABA. And so GABA being gamma, amino butyric acid, and through certain things I could be taking, I could actually, uh, significantly reduce that feeling of overwhelm that I was getting throughout the day, as I was trying to [00:49:00] manage all these different things in my life. Um, as part of that, discovered GABA and L-Theanine. Uh, coinciding with that, I realized that serotonin synthesis was something that I really needed to think about when it came to the mild to moderate depression that I was just getting throughout the day, even when I stopped drinking. And so discovered opportunities around 5-HTP, terasin, um, I mean, tryptofan, there's some other amino acids that can support that. So, you know, for each one of those, uh, different compounds, they generally relate to, uh, synthesizing neuro-transmitters, potentially hormones, that you can then use to balance out your system. Given that the majority of Americans have a neurotransmitter imbalance of some sort or another, there's a lot of good that can be done with very simple fixes around [00:50:00] balancing the diet or supplementation. 

[00:50:02] Raghu: Americans and Canadians, by the way. Uh, quickly to just to add onto that. So we're talking about things that you can add to help you feel better, right? But there's also easy things people can cut out, specifically anything that's processed for synthetic, right? That's not natural and specifically sugar, right? Sugar has such a detrimental effect on anxiety and depression and how you feel, as well as it's, I mean, at the end of the day, it's basically a addictive substance. Um, and it's been shown to enhance the reward system. So that is something that I would say if there's one thing to decrease or cut out, it'd be sugar. And if there's one thing to add it's color to your plate. 

[00:50:48] Ronan: I mean, it's all, it's all very reasonable and rational that the thing that I, uh, it really gets my graw. Like it's, it's so hard these days, particularly in the world of the internet, where information is, [00:51:00] I don't know if democratized is the right word, but it flows freely and not necessarily accurately, is that it's it seems so hard to know what, you know, what you should actually be eating, right? Like, oh yeah, you know, lots of fruits and vegetables, um, put different colors on your plate. And then when you read like Dave Asprey, who was like, Yeah, uh, you know, kale is out to kill, you, don't eat kale. Um, and you know, Dave, I think has been pretty on point in a lot of like nutritional commentary and being avant garde, so it's like, okay, is kale good or bad? Or are beans good or bad? I don't, I don't know anymore. Who do I trust? It becomes a real problem in this environment. Uh, you know, and I'm hoping that, uh, in the marketplace of ideas, the winners ultimately come to the top, but there's no certainty, and it's nice, you know, Zak, to your point, it's like, it's a lot easier when it's like, okay, here are the supplements you should be taking. That really simplifies things because yeah, supplements always carry some, some risks associated [00:52:00] with it, but the benefits seem to be pretty pretty well-established relative to the potential downsides. When it comes to different diet things, it's like, I don't know any more. I have no idea who to trust or who to listen to because, you know, doctors, aren't very good at it. That's for sure. You know, when you start from that, not doc- and I'm just talking to like general practitioners, like your family doctor kind of stuff. 

[00:52:19] Zak: Well, you can take a precision approach Ronan, to nutritional psychiatry. You know, when it comes to things like kale, cruciferous vegetables, and the like can be very disruptive for the thyroid, you know? And if you have historically had issues with your thyroid and you know that, which is not, not many people do, but if you do know that you know that you should be limiting cruciferous vegetable intake and so for me personally, I have to, I have to tailor my diet to what works for me, right? Um, because the, the, the be all end, all diet, whether it's south beach or ketogenic or the, [00:53:00] like, you know, what have you, it worked for a bunch of people, just like anti depressants work for a bunch of people, but it's, it's a bit scattershot, right? You know, you can have a best guess based upon, you know, assuming that a lot of people have serotonin deficiencies and if you know they're depressed then, or they, they qualify as depressed, then you would have a reasonable assumption that they should take X, Y, and Z, right? And so that, that hearkens back to my point around, we need an improved diagnostic environment to be able to say, Hey, you should probably be taking these things or you should cut out these things. Lentils are just the worst for me. Um, I, you know, you don't want to be around me when I eat lentils. I'm just, it's it's, it's it's ghastly. So I just, that's not the case for everyone. Some people, some people can thrive off lentils. [00:54:00] I, I do not thrive from lentils, so, but that's that's for me, that's that's my system, you know? It, it does not take well to these things. 

[00:54:12] Raghu: That's the thing, right? Is when you have someone that has such a strong reach, uh, making bold statements is dangerous. 

[00:54:20] Ronan: Totally. 

[00:54:20] Raghu: Cause people are looking for answers and they're looking for solutions. And especially now on Twitter, Instagram, it's easy to just to pick up that sentence from that headline. And pick it up, kale is going to kill me. I can't eat kale anymore, right? Or it's not- that's not the answer. So it's interesting. You, you bring up this point of like, how do people know that? And, um, fortunately here at PYM, we're going to be working on developing more of a nutritional psychiatry platform to enable people to actually have resources and options and start to think about their health on an individual basis.[00:55:00] 

[00:55:00] Zak: And my platform, the thing that's really essential to what we're doing is actually having a deeper understanding of what an individual is experiencing from a diagnostic perspective, because we can recommend a bunch of products that you can take. But if, if we don't know exactly what it is you're experiencing from day to day and we can't establish a data environment that can then evolve as things change and get better, um, we're not in optimal service to people in need. 

[00:55:36] Ronan: On that note, like what, uh, you know, as a, as a person who's kind of like trying always to self optimize and self-actualize like, what, what are the metrics I should be looking at? You know, uh, if we need data inputs to help craft a precision, um, mental health diet, uh, you know, supplement routine, whatever you want to call it, or whatever aspects of it, not in whatever you want to call it, like, what should [00:56:00] I be looking at? Or what should I be thinking about looking at? 

[00:56:03] Raghu: Okay. So that's a great question. And if you think about right now, if you work with a therapist or a psychiatrist, usually get prescribed something or told to make a change, and then you follow up in a month or two. That's way too long. What we really need is much more real-time feedback. So when you make a change in your life, it's about assessing yourself on almost a daily basis of saying, How do I feel today? How do I feel today? And even, even putting a number to it, right on a scale of one to 10, addressing your mood. Or getting a sheet of different faces and circling how you feel each day. And then looking at that, looking at that by the end of the week, and then the end of the month and making an assessment. And based off of that simple type of feedback, you can line that up with the changes that you've made and see what works for you.

[00:56:54] Zak: Yeah. And it's important to take an opportunity to take [00:57:00] qualitative measures to quantify them and then to normalize that quantify- that quantitative, uh, data point. Because your day days are complex, you might do a bunch of different things. Not every day is the same. So you could wake up one day feeling great and it's not attributable to certain things. So it needs to be established as now, liar, you know, you need, you need to really get a feel for what a nor-, what your normalized environment looks like. Complimenting that is an opportunity for explicit data inputs for using things like HRV, heart rate variability. You can detect cortisol levels. Neurotransmitter tests, honestly, from a diagnostic perspective are sort of in their infancy. So they're not as accurate as things like, you know, measuring blood pressure or HRV or things like that. But the more, the more you can take qualitative data and turn it into quantitative data and then normalize that data with baseline, [00:58:00] the better you're in a position to not only provide better insights and recommendations, but also coinciding with that, leverage things like machine learning and AI to then develop a deeper understanding of how a person can get personalized recommendations, better insights tailored to them. And you can do that in aggregate. You can do it on a personal level. There's, there's a bunch of different ways you could slice it. Um, but the more normalized data you have for an individual, for a population, the more you can then apply sophisticated learning to it. So that's it in a nutshell. There are some nuances to it, but, but that's, that's the starting point.

[00:58:42] Raghu: Think essentially a big data machine, but for yourself, 

[00:58:48] Ronan: Yeah. Yeah. Fair, fair enough. Are there any particular tools, like, do you guys wear a strap or an, or a ring to track your HRV and like, are there any things like that that you guys like? [00:59:00] 

[00:59:00] Raghu: Yeah. I usually have a watch that tracks my activity and heart rate throughout the day.

[00:59:05] Ronan: Yep. 

[00:59:06] Raghu: It's currently charging, but- 

[00:59:08] Zak: Yeah. So I have an Oura Ring. I'm actually my own piece of hardware that I wear regularly is an Oura Ring, and, um, I want to start measuring my HRV on a daily basis because I'm very curious. But, um, there's a collection of products out there that, you know, both for medical environments, but also for consumer environments support more robust data inputs. Um, personally, I need to get better at tracking my daily metrics. 

[00:59:43] Ronan: Yeah. Yeah. That's one of the big challenges. It's like, I have an apple watch. Um, I had a WHOOP strap. I was wearing the Apple Watch quite a bit, but then I'm like, you know what? I like having other watches on. And then, so I stopped wearing it and, you know, it's like, all right, well maybe an Oura Ring. It's like, Ooh, [01:00:00] never bought a Oura Ring, but it's a little bit of a pain in the ass to like, get it sized and all that kind of stuff. Then I had like a WHOOP strap, but I could just kind of gets annoying to wear that on your wrist all the time with no functionality other than, um, you know, passive data collection, uh, really, I mean, yes, you can log in and all that kind of stuff. Anyway, that's not the point of this. Um, I guess two questions. First question is Zak, you seem open to two psychedelics, uh, and you can be as candid or as cagey as you want in this, but, uh, are they part of your mental health practice? Uh, because I know people especially be able to suffer who suffered with addiction, you know, using other drugs, uh, following an addiction or as a way to get off addiction, even though there's a lot of evidence to suggest suggested may be beneficial, does seem counter intuitive a lot of the time. So curious to know about that, uh, and in particular, you know, if you, if you do, uh, use psychedelics as, as part of your routine or your healing path, you know, what have been the [01:01:00] profound insights that you've taken away from some of those experiences and same question for you Raghu. Afterwards? 

[01:01:06] Zak: Um, great question. I've not engaged in psychedelic therapy ever. 

[01:01:13] Ronan: Okay.

[01:01:14] Zak: Uh, I've engaged in psychedelics recreationally. But not for awhile. And, um, I would want to, uh, engage and psychedelic protocol, not only to learn more about it, but also to take, uh, take, uh, develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities available to provide support. I personally have deep conviction that psychedelics can be transformational for people. And I'd want to advocate for usage of psychedelics. For me personally, um, I, I felt I needed to establish certain pathways to [01:02:00] healing, um, without undergoing a, you know, a guided approach, uh, out the gate. Um, but that was, that's specific to, you know, some decisions I made. For instance, I haven't done plant medicine. I've not done ketamine, psilocybin, you know, all these different considerations. But I I'm very open to it. It's just the opportunity hasn't arisen. 

[01:02:28] Ronan: Well, you heard it here, folks. Uh, this is Zak, Zak and Elon Musk both advocate for, for a psychedelic therapies as being a useful tool. Listen, I mean, I totally respect that. And what about you, Raghu? 

[01:02:40] Raghu: Yeah, I, um, you know, I think for me personally, my most profound experiences have been with psilocybin. 

[01:02:47] Ronan: Yeah. 

[01:02:47] Raghu: Uh, it's really important for me though, to be in the right set and setting. Uh, I'm not someone who just kind of uses it recreationally at a party or at a music festival per se. [01:03:00] Uh, I think for me, it's a very intentional thing. It's about really exploring my environment and also going inward. And so some of the most profound insights I've had, have been in those situations. And a lot of it is breaking my cycle of rumination and anxiety and feelings of depression, essentially. And it brings me to this embrace of love for myself and for those around me and my community. And that's, what's really powerful for me. And I think that psychedelics are amazing. I mean, they are powerful and I'm currently training formally through MAPS and MDMA psychotherapy. And that experience has been profound just to learn about the history of psychedelics and all of the research behind it. And to wa- you know, to experience sessions that people are going through and the insights they gather. So I'm all for it. The one thing that I always say is that [01:04:00] the world is getting excited about psychedelics, but it's also important to recognize that just like everything else in life, it's not always for a hundred percent of the population. And it's important to recognize one's own predispositions and state of mental health and whether they're ready for it or not. 

[01:04:19] Zak: I think an important consideration as well too, is how psychedelics pair very well, potentially with nutritional supplementation and the like. 

[01:04:28] Raghu: Yep. 

[01:04:28] Ronan: A hundred percent. We had a Alberto Villoldo, uh, I don't know if you guys knew who he is, but he was on talking about, you know, you need to have the precursors, you need to make sure that your body is- you know, psychedelic experience is going to be powerful regardless, but if you want to make the most of them, make sure that your body is equipped with the right, you know, um, nutrients and supplements and amino acids and all that kind of stuff to, uh, make sure you get the most out of it and then create not only the most significantly emotional and psychological transformations, but also, you know, we know about the [01:05:00] neuro-plasticity effects of psychedelics as well and the, the biological and the neurochemical effects as well. Um, 

[01:05:06] Raghu: And I'll say, Ronan, that some of the most powerful impacts, uh, impact of psychedelics for me usually is the days afterwards, right? The week afterwards is like when I started to really feel a lot of it. 

[01:05:18] Ronan: Totally. Now, one of the questions, Raghu, that you had suggested is like the, the future of mental health. And I'm going to be a little bit more esoteric in this question, because it's one of the questions that I've been like struggling with. And I'm just so interested to have this conversation with people who probably think about similar type, um, questions as, as, as I do, you know, you said psychedelics aren't for everybody, and that's true enough, even though I would deny it outright from a business perspective. I'm just kidding. Of course, that's true. Um, but it's kind of like to what end, if, if psychedelics hold as much promise, if not just psychedelics, psychedelics and nutritional psychiatry and all this kind of work has hold as [01:06:00] much promise as, as we think they do in terms of enhancing people's mental health, you know, I tried to like put myself in the, in the position of, how is the world actually different? Like what, what do we get to, you know, if like, you know, the human experience is still the human experience and it's still all kind of clocks back and forth. We can't live in peak experience all the time. Like, our human physiology is not actually equipped to do that. So to the extent that we're always going to be ping ponging in and out of that peak experience, you kind of create the space for depression and anxiety and all that kind of stuff. Now, maybe the circumstances in which that happens are more narrow and all that kind of stuff, but it's still kind of like, is the world at any different if we cure depression, anxiety, and trauma, you know? And, and how is it that much different? Um, and I'm not sure I, where I get to the answer, uh, except to the extent that the more we compress and compress and eliminate, eliminate all of that negative energies, negative emotions, all that kind of [01:07:00] stuff, however you want to describe that, you know, the only place to go is maybe it level up consciousness that like, you know, if we're looking at the chain of consciousness with humans, so-called being at the top step and down to like monkeys and dogs and dolphin and all that all the way down. Maybe we take the actual step up, like, and maybe that's the end outcome, but I really want to know if you've ever given thought to, you know, w what, what is the end of all this work, uh, that we achieve? Uh, are we making a better planet or are we just, you know, thinking we're solving a problem, but it's a forever moving target?

[01:07:33] Zak: So doing a lot of advocacy work, I think about this a lot of say- how is, why, why mental health? Why is time spent around mental health? What's the, so what, of it? Is it more important than other work that we can be doing? And the short answer is, it's not. It plays a part. It's on, on different footing. It plays a part [01:08:00] in enabling work done around climate change, work done around tackling inequality and establishing parody. Um, in my mind, someone who is dysregulated, feeling anxious, depressed, and the like, is not oriented towards action. A. B, might be, uh, pursuing different pursuits in favor of, you know, just trying to take care of themselves without actually feeling fulfilled, and be able to go out there and connect with people in a, in a clear and authentic way. Um, I see mental health, climate change, inequality, as inextricably related to one another. And if we take care of our mental health, we're more able to develop a better connection with our surroundings and natural environment. We're able to really understand the plight of [01:09:00] other man, woman, child, and they, uh, you know, you're able to really understand the plight of another person and able to then say, Hey, we can't accept inequality as, as something that, you know, we can, we can live with, um, and not do something about. Um, in, in my perspective, there is that greater mosaic of challenges, problems that face our world in this era, and solving for mental health enables us to better tackle the other problems out there, while being, being connected and feeling fulfilled, and it's all it all relates to that service is a path. Clear mind, balance, feeling foundationally supported, enables you to be of service. So that's my selfish way of saying, take care of yourself to go help other people. [01:10:00] 

[01:10:01] Raghu: Yeah, no, it's, it's incredible. I, you know, I thought a lot about, I think a lot about this and I thought a lot about this when I started my nonprofit, because it was like, why am I starting this to work on mental health? But for me, it came down to the fact that human suffering at its core is due to poor mental health. And if we can try to alleviate some of that suffering by treating mental health conditions, then we can create a better community and environment. And I see, as Zak was saying, it's sort of this like, the etiology of a lot of other conditions and it works in parallel with them. So if you think about a web of resilience, for the world, at the core of it is the person and that's the asset and you have to take care of the asset. And so for me, it's about, there is a reason that we're working towards this. There is a reason we're developing resources and tools [01:11:00] to enhance mental health and your concept of like, well, at the end of the day, we're not going to- we can't just live in peak state, which is true. But at the same time, I would argue that one of the most beautiful things about being human is the fact that we don't just live in one peak state. We can actually experience different states, even if it's sadness or loneliness or anger or fear or joy or happiness, and those are the different states along our journey that enable us to actually have a human experience and to connect with one another. So it's meaningful for us to work towards treating poor mental health because it alleviates the distress that we might feel when we're in those states, though we still will continue to experience them. 

[01:11:48] Zak: When we're distressed and not taking care of our mental health, we have a tendency and a propensity to abuse ourselves and abuse others.

[01:11:55] Ronan: Yeah. I mean, all of those points are very valid and I thank you for sharing them. And, [01:12:00] and to be clear, I'm not taking a position on this, it's just, you know, a mental exercise that, it hasn't come to a nicely wrapped bow. And, you know, as I think about it, it just like, it is the ultimate question is like, to what end is any of the work we're doing? You know? And, and it's one of those questions that, you know, I've just, I've just been very fascinated by. Uh, and I don't, I don't mean to be bleak and I'm certainly not feeling bleak or depressed about it, it's just like, where does this go? Where, where, what are we working towards? Like yeah. Alleviating suffering is wonderful. It sounds like a great thing. Um, and then what? 

[01:12:35] Zak: [You could do] a whole, another podcast about it. 

[01:12:37] Ronan: Oh, for sure. For sure. Anyway, I'm going to nerd out at that. Uh, listen, gentlemen, I've taken up, uh, plenty of your time. Thank you for joining me. Before we go, I did want to ask, um, can you give me like, uh, uh, like give me the quick and dirty about PYM and PYM chews and where I can get it. Cause I actually, uh, I'm, I'm genuinely wanting to try them, but I don't even know if they're available in [01:13:00] Canada. And what was the inspiration and the formulation? How did that all come about? 

[01:13:05] Zak: Um, yeah, so first off you can buy them. We do ship to Canada. 

[01:13:10] Ronan: Okay. 

[01:13:11] Zak: Um, and it'll take a little bit longer because it ships to a customs facility and then it needs to clear, and then you get it so you will get it if you order it. Um, but, um, the genesis of PYM's first product, the original mood chew, it was meant to be basically the lowest common denominator for providing the most support for the most amount of people.

[01:13:39] Ronan: Right. 

[01:13:39] Zak: Um, it's formulated in such a way where it's very safe and effective for many circumstances, relating to managing stress and anxiety. We formulated over a period of time with a test group. We worked with 30 people, um, taking the product different iterations of the [01:14:00] product several times, uh, to get to a formulation that worked for the most amount of people. Um, What we realized through going through that process and being out in market for a year is that we actually need to further customize the protocols so that, um, we can capture, uh, capture is not the best word. We can provide sustained support for the most amount of people possible. And so that's where we're going with PYM 2.0, the next iteration of our product. I found a transformational effect when taking GABA and l-theanine specifically when it came to managing my stress and anxiety, but I had such a deficiency relating to my GABA system that when I took it, when I took GABA for the first time, it was just like, it was like night and day. 

[01:14:51] Ronan: Wow. 

[01:14:52] Zak: And, um, and so for me specifically, you, uh, I, I [01:15:00] found the product to be extremely helpful for me, and then wanted to create the product, to share with people so they can manage their mental health in a safe and effective way. You can find our product that Y O U C A M P Y It ships all throughout the North America. And, and the next version that we're launching is a vegan version. And then from there, our nutritional psychiatry system, and we're very excited for, for people to get customized product and nutritional support for a whole slew of needs. Raghu, take it away. 

[01:15:39] Ronan: Sorry, just a quick question, before, before you jump in, raghu. Is version 2.0 the vegan version or is there a version 2.0, and then there's the vegan version that comes out after that? 

[01:15:48] Zak: The vegan version is, is just, it's what we're launching next. Um, and then 2.0 is a comprehensive nutritional psychiatry [inaudible]. 

[01:15:56] Ronan: Okay.

[01:15:57] Zak: And that, that has a diagnostic component [01:16:00] that will actually provide, you know, a more comprehensive support protocol than what you'd get with just our mood chew, the first product or vegan mood chew which is helpful for many, many people. It just won't provide customized support.

[01:16:17] Raghu: It's taking a step towards precision mental health. 

[01:16:20] Ronan: Yeah, totally. I'm really interested in the GABA cause like I, I have an essential tremor, my hands shake terribly, and I was recently reading that there's a GABA, GABA deficiency theory around essential tremor. So I'm certainly going to try that and maybe I'll try that through a PYM mood chews as opposed to just a direct supplementa- because does it include GABA or- 

[01:16:41] Raghu: yeah, it does have GABA and you know, it's interesting because those with the essential tremor, a majority of them, if they drank alcohol, specifically wine, the tremor gets better. And alcohol also works on the GABA receptor. 

[01:16:54] Ronan: Interesting. Yep. Yeah. That's totally the case when I've had a few too many drinks, I'm much more stable, [01:17:00] uh, until the next morning. And then, you know, um, I'm shaking like a skeleton, but yeah. Interesting. Very cool. Well, gentlemen, thank you so much for your time. It's been a real delight chatting with you. I've enjoyed this conversation. I found it reasonably germane to all the things that I'm working on and I hope you have as well. So thank you very much. 

[01:17:20] Raghu: Yeah. Thanks so much for having us, Ronan. It's a pleasure speaking to you.

[01:17:24] Ronan: Of course. 

[01:17:24] Zak: Yeah, thanks. It's been an absolute pleasure. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to actually checking out the full-blown guided psychedelic experience. It's something that I'd be very open to it. 

[01:17:35] Raghu: We gotta go take a tour. 

[01:17:37] Ronan: Yeah, absolutely. I'll connect with you guys offline. What we'll set you up and get you in. Um, uh, you know, the, the, the space is beautiful. I just got there for the first time actually, because of travel restrictions. I've been stuck in Toronto until, you know, this past week when I went to LA. And the space is amazing. And, uh, it is really, uh, a place where people can achieve, I think, a lot of beautiful [01:18:00] things. 

[01:18:03] Raghu: Awesome.

[01:18:05] Ronan: It's been said that a "sense of humor properly developed is superior to any religion yet devised." And while I'm ordinarily one to agree in hearing Zak's story about his path to happiness and fulfillment, I can see how these words from Tom Robbins may not be as universal of a truth as I once thought. Zak's father was well known for his sense of humor. And while certainly a person's humor can and is often inspired by one's demons, or at least running from one's demons, as Zak experience firsthand, those demons can eventually carry the day. Yet Zak and Raghu as well have managed to take very challenging life experiences and channel them into a direction and inspiration that many people often find in religion. Except their inspiration came from trauma and challenges. So while I may not agree with the universality of the first quotation from Tom Robbins, I still adhere to this one: [01:19:00] "We, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to dilute ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure in every relationship we enter." Zak and Raghu certainly have found their own fulfillment. And I think that can serve as a powerful source of inspiration for all of us.

[01:19:25] Caller: Hey Ronan, so being over a year into this pandemic, almost two years now, I'm finding myself really socially anxious, way more than I used to be. It used to be a social butterfly. Now I don't want to leave the house and hanging out with people. I'm way more stressed out than I used to be in arguably going into depression. Um, I just wanted to know what are some of the steps that I can take to manage these emotions that are easy and perhaps natural. 

[01:19:51] Ronan: That is a great question and probably the ultimate question that everybody has been struggling with for the last year, truthfully, probably all their lives, uh, [01:20:00] on some level or another. And coming out of the, the conversation with Zak and Raghu, I think the answer is you've got to figure out a personalized approach, um, and figure out what works for you. There's no necessarily obvious or, uh- there are simple answers, but it's not necessarily an obvious answer. For me, what's worked, uh, has been a combination of factors. Uh, you know, as I mentioned in the conversation with Zak and Raghu, one of the things that's always been important to me is feeling like I'm making progress towards something. So spending some time with yourself and understanding what feels good? Where do you want to head? What's important for you and what do you want to achieve in your life? And just starting the process towards those goals. That's been a huge piece for me is just getting up and doing something in the direction of your dreams. It's been powerful for me. Certainly exercise is essential. I know that when someone's doing feeling depressed, uh, finding the motivation to exercise is one of the more [01:21:00] difficult things, but there's probably no more simple and effective thing that they can do than exercise. Um, you know, study after study shows that it's more effective than most antidepressants. So however, whatever it takes to get yourself up and start exercising, even if it's just short spurts of high-intensity exercise of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for a few minutes, it all helps significantly. Journaling has been something that I've used at various points as well. It's a great way to express your emotions in a way that actually is very cognitively meaningful to your brain. You know, it's one thing to think about your feeling or talk about your feeling, but your brain actually processes the act of writing down differently than the act of speaking it, uh, and so just clearing your head, getting those things off your chest and writing them down on a piece of paper is powerful. Same with meditation. Uh, you know, sometimes it's hard to get into meditation, but just closing your eyes, um, [01:22:00] and letting thoughts flow is important. I've found myself truthfully very recently, uh, in a place where I was feeling depressed, isolated, disconnected, uh, and I used a little bit of cannabis and I meditated and it was powerful. And what it made me realize is that instead of reaching out to the people around me, um, to talk about what I was feeling and just get out of the stressful situation that I was in, I was internalizing it all. I was putting it all on myself. Just bearing it in myself more and more and more and more and more, and within a few minutes of meditation, uh, uh, you know, I just got this deep sense of like, you have all this wonder around, you have all of these powerful and thoughtful and caring friends, reach out to them, share what you're feeling. They, they want to hear from you. They want to support you. Uh, and I did, and literally within a moment of sending a text message saying, Hey guys, just checking in. I could use some support, whatever I was feeling evaporated. Um, and you know, certainly, [01:23:00] uh, and shameless self promotion, uh, our Trip app is a great tool for wonderful meditations and, and journaling and all that kind of stuff. So download that and, you know, use it or don't use it. Truthfully, it doesn't really matter that much, but going back to one of my earlier points, just heading out in a direction and trying to do something to me makes all the difference, and so I'd encourage you just to go in a direction. Set, set your course, figure out what you want and find a way to start moving forward towards it, in however small a step you need to take to do it, it will help. So those were my thoughts on what you can do. Just start breaking out of the depression and anxiety that truthfully we've all been experiencing. I guess the final point I would make is that, you know, uh, for some people it matters. For me, it matters. For some people. It doesn't matter, but, um, know that you're not alone. There are a lot of people feeling the same things as you, so you're not weird. You're not different. You're not bad. Your perfectly, [01:24:00] perfectly normal to be feeling those things. And, and for me, that makes a difference when people tell me that. So I'm telling that to you as well. 

As a quick reminder, you can record your 'how to' question for us and we will play it on the show. Just go to, or you can email us your questions at That's Kast with a K. Also, please follow, rate, and review our podcast and sign up for our newsletter at or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast that's dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious, breathe properly, and remember, every day is a field trip, if you let it be one. Field Tripping is created by Ronan Levy. Our producers are Conrad Page and Harley Roman and associate producers are Sharon Bhella, [01:25:00] Alec Sherman, Macy Baker, and Tyler Newbold. Special thanks to Kast Media, and of course, many thanks to Zak Williams and Raghu Appasani for joining me today. To learn more, check out and

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