I faced a challenge one of every three people in America has: Depression and anxiety

Lenny Mendonca
Sacramento Bee

On Friday, April 10, at 5 p.m., Californians learned I had resigned as Chief Economic and Business Advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The press release stated I was leaving “to focus on family and personal business.” In corporate speak, this usually means someone got fired. I was not fired, and I approved this press release, even though I hate 5 p.m. Friday press releases.

I am sharing additional information because I faced a challenge one of every three people in America has: depression and anxiety.

Far too often, people suffer these illnesses with shame and without support. As our country wrestles with massive unemployment, widespread economic uncertainty, the continuation of coronavirus and ongoing fights for racial and social justice, it has never been more urgent for business and economic leaders to move beyond platitudes on mental health. Leaders must ensure people can find vital care and acceptance for mental health challenges without punitive professional or personal impact.

That includes me and starts with this column.


Three weeks before my resignation, I had an emergency overnight stay at the hospital. After a battery of tests, I received a diagnosis of severe depression and anxiety. Against medical advice, I dove right back into coronavirus response. This was late March. The crisis was all-consuming and my local businesses and family also needed attention.

At the time, I told myself and my team that we all have to operate at 120%. For me, this meant 80-hour work weeks and barely sleeping. I realize now that not only did I put my own health at risk, but also I was a bad role model for my team.

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