Mental Health For Geeks

In 2009, I did a presentation at SXSW called Therapy 2.0: Mental Health for Geeks, even creating a corresponding wiki with resources. A month later, I spoke at the first Mental Health Camp for bloggers in Vancouver on the intersection of social media and mental health.

Looking back, it seems ironic that I haven’t written much since then about mental health or mental illness in tech culture especially when I consider that a large proportion of the people who seek my help have careers in tech. It’s as if I’ve forgotten that it’s worth mentioning.

And it’s really not.

Prodded by the recent suicide of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the co-founders of Diaspora (a site, I had eagerly awaited due to multiple privacy failings on the part of Facebook), Violet Blue wrote a great post about called Tech’s Relationship With Depression, Suicide and Asperger’s. I share many of Violet’s concerns and she interviewed me for this article which includes a number of my comments.

Our friends and family in tech culture may suffer and struggle in ways that we may not see or just may not know how to identify. It’s hard to get someone the help they need when you don’t know they are suffering or if their coping or personality style involves masking their pain.

It’s not that people in tech are so special or different from anyone else, but working in the digital realm does involve the pressures of internet attention, visibility, or “celebrity,” which can sometimes be unexpected and overwhelming. Others may not realize that their normal ways of coping keep them isolated and deprived of support. I hope people will check out Violet Blue’s post which provides links to APA and NIMH’s resources for depression and suicide.

And if you or someone you know needs help, find a professional who you can talk to about your stress. There are low-fee options in every city. College counseling centers and counseling, psychology, or social work training sites may be good places to look for low-fee options. Larger sites such as APA’s Psychologist Locator and Psychology Today provide listings for private practice clinicians.

But whatever you do, talk to someone and let them know that you need some support. There is no need to suffer in silence. People are there to help you, and if you are thinking of taking your life, know that you will leave behind people who will miss you and who will wish they could have reached out to help.

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