If you are having thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not alone. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911. For support and resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.
Today, Deepak Chopra turns to the technology best known as ‘blockchain’ to tackle mental health and suicide prevention. An article published on the National Institutes of Health website called Suicide Risk and Prevention during Covid-19 explains how preventing suicide needs urgent consideration during the pandemic. The article states, “There is some evidence that deaths by suicide increased in the USA during the 1918–19 influenza pandemic and among older people in Hong Kong during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.”
Chopra, who earlier this year offered a free 21-day meditation with Oprah Winfrey as the world began sheltering in place to avoid contracting or spreading Covid-19, has announcing the Chopra Foundation has partnered with Hedera Hashgraph, a distributed ledger technology company in Richardson, Texas, to tackle the mental health crisis and flatten the other curve – suicide rates.
Deepak Chopra On Blockchain
I spoke with Chopra to better understand his take on blockchain and followed up with Harmon and his team regarding this ‘merger’ of meditation with technology. Chopra indicated, “I have been looking at blockchain for a while. I always believed we now need a platform that has traceability, that has collaboration, that has proof-of-work.” Chopra went on to explain how blockchain’s technical concepts translate to collaboration and transparency among individuals. “I am a big student of emergence, which means when you have a shared vision, when you value people’s differences, something happens when there is true transparency, when everything is measurable. Blockchain moves us in that direction.”
Chopra further explained his world view and how he sees the potential of distributed ledger technology by describing what he views as a generally corrupt system. “Leaders, or so-called leaders,…are mostly gangsters and all these systems [are] set up for corruption warmongering and everything that creates a divisive and fragmented society,” said Chopra.
According to both Chopra and Christian Hasker, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Hedera Hashgraph, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds in the world. Thus, as Bill Gates seeks to promote the development of a vaccine with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a ‘vaccine’ to the mental health challenges associated with Covid-19 could result from Chopra’s endeavor.
Deepak Chopra On Three Aspects Of The ‘Never Alone Initiative’
Jason Brett: Can you explain what the ‘Never Alone Initiative – Worldwide Alliance’ is?
Deepak Chopra: The campaign is called ‘Never Alone,’ a global community that is going to be online with what we hope is a combination of online and offline communities with three particular aspects. The first main aspect is service where everyone helps each other with best practices and everyone is available. That is the advantage of the blockchain, you can track the conversation, the content, what is being produced, and where it came from, you can adapt it, exchange your ideas and best practices. Think of it as a support system for everyone and anyone who is experiencing mental health services.
The second aspect is some kind of spiritual practice which is meditation, mindfulness, and breathing, yoga, exercises, and also emotional support for each other.
The third aspect is community. Once you have enough communities totally transparent, with participants in this elective effort for health, wellbeing and particularly mental support, we have a revolution here.
Deepak Chopra On His Partnership With Hedera Hashgraph
Brett: How did you and your foundation connect Hedera Hashgraph?
Chopra: Distributed systems will enable grassroots systems for mental health and more. We chose to partner with Hedera Hashgraph, which has a distributed ledger platform that is very robust and secure. Also, because the views on distributed governance [by Hedera Hashgraph] are an equally important part as well. As a result, no single entity – no country, no person – can control the distributed ledger which allows for ongoing distribution of content. Also, DLT provides transparency and trust for donors to know their funds are being used for the purpose given.
Hedera Hashgraph Explains Technical Aspects Of The Program
I also spoke with Mance Harmon, CEO and Co-Founder of Hedera Hashgraph, as well as Christin Hasker, CMO at Hedera Hashgraph.
Jason Brett: How did the collaboration with the Chopra Foundation start and what the conversation was like when you spoke to Deepak?
Mance Harmon: I kind of anticipated that question and it really started with conversations with Christian so I invited him to participate in this.
Christian Hasker: Back in June, the Chopra Foundation and the John W. Brick mental health foundation did a three-day livestream about mental health that featured very prominent people, a lot of celebrities obviously Deepak led it. People like Russell Brand, Drew Barrymore [participated] and I can send you a link to that…They started to have conversations about the Never Alone initiative. The CEO of Chopra Foundation had a vision for a blockchain-based platform in order to democratize access to mental health resources.
Today, even in the U.S. to gain access to mental health resources, even if you have insurance, a lot of insurance doesn’t cover mental health resources unfortunately and so they have this vision for a global platform and it is a blockchain-based platform. So we were introduced to Poonacha Machaiah [Co-founder, Never Alone Initiative Founder] and Gabriella Wright [Co-Founder, Never Alone Initiative Actress, Humanitarian and Activist] who unfortunately has been touched by suicide personally- her sister committed suicide – so this is a project that is very close to her heart. She is a co-founder of Never Alone. With Deepak Chopra, we all had conversations back in July about building this platform on Hedera and introducing them to Hedera. Hedera is really the ideal solution for this type of platform.
Brett: When will the ‘Never Alone’ platform go live?
Hasker: The platform is currently being built. Phase One will be complete and in the market in Q4 this year Phase Two will be in Q1 2021 and Phase Three will be in Q2 2021.
Brett: One of the things that happened to Deepak when he entered into the crypto community in 2018 was not the warmest of receptions – some people thought Deepak shouldn’t be associated with crypto necessarily because they felt like there is already enough mystery around crypto. I am actually a subscriber to Deepak and do his meditations. I felt like the reaction, particularly in the Ethereum community, was very intolerant to him. In speaking to Deepak yesterday, I felt like he understood blockchain very well. This effort is what blockchain is made for- it seems like a very noble and honest effort to respond to a real policy crisis. Do you think that as this is announced, the crypto community needs to do a better job of rolling out the red carpet for Deepak this time?
Harmon: So I would assume that it’s the case there is going to be an overlap of two categories of personas that care about this. There are the crypto enthusiasts and there’s a certain background associated with those in the crypto industry that feels to me subjectively like it would overlap nicely with those that appreciate what Deepak is doing, what he stands for and what he is trying to bring to the market and to the world. So yes, I think some demographic within the crypto certainly will appreciate what he is bringing to. Honestly, it’s a little surprising that the community would be intolerant of what he’s promoting.
Brett: Why do you feel that Hedera Hashgraph needs to lean into this particular area at this time?
Harmon: What Deepak is doing is a good model in general for what can be done in the future on this platform. Outside of the subject matter, in particular, this notion that we can have platforms that do program management, fundraising, digital content management, all on a single distributed ledger like Hedera. Hedera is a good model for this.
Leading in this use of DLT for creating full solutions that basically crowdsource – we might call it democratizing content – but it’s essentially crowdsourcing content and compensating those that provide the content, compensating those that provide the services, and he’s doing it in the context of an organization that is addressing specific mental health needs which is a good thing as well. The model is important to an industry as a whole.
Brett: Can you explain the mechanics of the ‘Never Alone’ token? How is the distributed ledger going to help ensure it is a trusted platform? What is it actually going to do that people know they are receiving help from healthcare workers?
Harmon: There are two things there, the tokenized content and content authenticity. And if we go with the tokenized content first. There will be a content catalogue and registry of services and these assets – the content – get tokenized in the sense that any participation in the creation or curation gets rewarded using the digital tokens, the Never Alone token. The authenticity portion of that is that the content itself is a digital fingerprint stored along with metadata in the Hedera system so you have the ability to ensure the authenticity of the content in the future while at the same time tokenizing the content and crowdsourcing content and providing renumeration to those who created it.
In addition to that, you have the end users of the content know that the content is authentic and has not been tampered with because of the digital fingerprint that is created when the content is created. You have traceability and authenticity that can be verified using the ledger in that context…When the assets are used such as services or other content, these events gets logged, there is transparency in the use of these events, and smart contracts automatically get triggered to credit the content creators for the use of the content. That’s the big picture of how these features fit together.
Brett: Those who may be having mental issues now during the Covid-19 system, how can they participate when the program rolls out and why should they trust this system if they are unfamiliar with blockchain?
Hasker: Another community that we talked to was the investor community that wants to provide capital for good causes. One gentleman lost his son to a drug overdose. He is giving money indiscriminately to basically any cause that provides services or emotional support for at-risk abuse for substance abuse challenges. He has no way to know how his money is being used. Part of this platform is solving a real problem around charitable contribution and that is the ability to designate funds for a specific cause via smart contracts.
In conclusion, it will be interesting to see if Harmon and Chopra’s partnership can leverage the Chopra Foundation and the Hedera Hashgraph platform to assist in preventing suicides and improving mental health around the world during this uncertain period of history.
Disclosure: I am the CEO and Chairman of the Value Technology Foundation. Hedera Hashgraph is one of many donors to the non-profit. I own some Bitcoin and Ethereum. I do not own Hbars. I also do meditate, sometimes using the materials of Deepak Chopra.