It is important to raise awareness of mental health issues and well being among those who live and breathe in the tech world.   This can be done with articles, blogs, podcasts and all kinds of events on the internet.  All of these will help to promote openness and will help to connect people who are struggling with mental issues with others that are able to help them.  

So many people struggle with these issues.   Events have taken place in the past in Britain and Australia, featuring a “mental health week” for instance, where all kinds of topics, resources and material are offered. 

Arguably, there is a strong relationship between those working in tech and depression, ADHD, Asperger’s and suicide. However, it probably works both ways. But, it seems all kinds of people are attracted to tech just like all kinds of people are attracted to experiencing and playing online slots.   

Still, incredibly, there are those who argue that hacking, coding and other work involved in tech can only be done by those with something wrong with them.  A falsehood meant to make those with particular attributes and interests feel bad about themselves.

Suffering in silence

Keeping secrets is very isolating. Hacking is isolating. At the same time the struggle to be successful in tech is huge and then, of course, there’s the money.  Success and the possibility of failure, and online exposure, is always a constant worry and fear even to those in perfect health.  There is a huge amount of hidden fear, and “fake it till you make it” that is involved in most of tech’s social interactions. People are hiding their fears and suffering.

Success if often a double- edged sword.  Reaching success and achieving that huge multi-billion- dollar sale and bringing in that amount of money can be difficult to handle and brings with it a price to pay.

According to Dr. Keely Kolmes, a specialist in the links between tech and mental health stresses that it is so much more personal for those in the startup world and tech’s high- risk online activities, including hacking and tech writing.  Those involved in this work are making a huge investment and exposing themselves, their reputations and their own money. They often put their heart and soul into these endeavors.  This is high-risk behavior.  

When you invest so much into a project and you have so much riding on its success, the potential to fall, and reach a very low level is a huge risk. It’s a gamble.   In today’s environment, you are not taking this risk in a vacuum, it is very public, the whole world knows who you are and is watching.  This kind of pressure and stress can have a real emotional impact. If someone has a tendency to become depressed or anxious this pressure can push them over the top.

Unfortunately, the signs of some of these mental health issues can easily be hidden.   Everyone is working hard to show how well they are doing, in spite of all the haters.    Unfortunately, any signs of distress or struggle are often met with denial and reinforcement.  

At a hacker conference some time ago it was suggested that psychologists provide a model for lowering the high risk activities involved in hacking and security research.   The attendees were told “We don’t need any more suicides.”  This didn’t go down too well and further presentations regarding mental health and harm reduction in the hacking community were censored.   This secrecy and wish to keep the problems hidden just exacerbate the problems.

This just shows how important it is to support anything to do with Geek and tech mental help.  It is important to bring more awareness to this subject and to fight for those people you care about.   It is important to know and understand what the signs of stress and depression are.   There are some good resources for those interested in looking further.

Tools and resources

  • Mental Health for Geeks – Dr Keely Kolmes
  • Signs and symptoms of depression: National Institute of Mental Health
  • Depression Page of the American Psychological Association.
  • NIMHs suicide fact sheet
  • APAs suicide risk resource page

There is also a very useful workbook call Mind Over Mood by Greenburger and Padesky which is worth a look and also a book called Feeling Good by David Burns.   For those with Asperger’s, a good book by Tony Attwood , The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome is worth tracking down.  Online there are sites that are very useful in explaining the links between depression and Asperger’s.

Another mental health resource can be found in “The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy.”   There is a section on how to fight back against “revenge porn” and online privacy violations.   There is a section to help recognize the signs when mental health is in danger and there are also resources offered which include the following:

  • Breakthrough.com – assessment and online counseling
  • Need2Talk and Here2Listen – helpline
  • Help finding a therapist – National Association of Social Workers
  • Psychology help center – American Psychological Association
  • Sexual trauma : rain.org/get-help

It is important for us all to be there for someone in need, and especially in this new and fast and sometimes lonely internet era.

This by Alice Walker is incredibly powerful and a good one to keep in mind.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any”.