At LoopConf 2018 I spoke about mental health issues. I feel like this is a topic that many developers, freelancers, and others in our industry need to talk about more. As a society though, we often times attach a negative connotation to the phrase “mental health”. Admitting that you have mental health needs is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a part of who we are.
Think about any other health issue we encounter in our lives – like getting the Flu, for example. If we’re sick, we stay home, we rest, and take care of ourselves until we’re feeling better. No one questions this. It’s normal.
Why should mental health issues be any different? If you’re feeling burned out, have imposter syndrome, or struggle with (sometimes) irrational, fears there’s nothing wrong with taking time to care for yourself. Or even **gasp** talk about it with someone.
Full disclosure: I am not a mental health professional. The information provided in this post and the video is not intended to replace the guidance of a professional. If you are experiencing any mental health issues please speak to a professional. There are some resources linked at the bottom of this post.
Why I talked about mental health
So many of us struggle with mental health issues and sometimes don’t even realize it. Often times it takes a friend, family member, or colleague to reach out and say something before we realize there’s even an issue.
My hope for this talk was to spark conversations about mental health within your work teams, families, and even neighborhoods.
The talk I gave spoke about my own struggles with mental health issues including burnout, imposter syndrome, and other issues. It was an extremely personal talk, which was done in front of a room full of some friends and some strangers (plus live streamed to who knows how many others). If it didn’t show, I was extremely nervous about giving the talk.
But because I pushed past that uncomfortable feeling I was able to share and (hopefully) help others. I opened up and shared to help people that I may not even know. If I can do that, I hope it shows that you too can open up and talk to someone in order to help yourself.
I can do better
After the talk someone pointed out that I included anxiety as a way we set ourselves up for failure. Their point was that anxiety isn’t a choice, which is true. I think my wording on the slide could definitely use some work (and I’ll definitely adjust it if I do the talk again).
What I meant was that if we allow our anxiety to prevent us from doing something, it could set ourselves up for failure. Imagine if I was so anxious about giving this talk that at the last minute I walked out and never got on stage. Or, if I was so anxious about speaking that I never submitted the speaker application in the first place. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure just because you have anxiety, or even if you choose not to do something. Recognizing it, and coping with it is what’s important.
I also failed to mention what steps people can take to deal with mental health issues. Fortunately there was a question from the audience that allowed me to address that point.
Mental health is a topic that we, in the developer world, have only just started to talk about in recent years. If you’re a leader in your organization, make sure the mental health of your team is a priority. Talk to each other about the issues you’re struggling with or how you can help someone else through their issues.
Only by keeping the conversation going will we begin to shift the stigma surrounding mental health. Only then will we start seeing the change that is desperately needed.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some resources here. It shouldn’t be difficult to get help – hopefully this list makes it a little easier.
Also, if I’m missing any resources please leave a comment or if you wish to remain anonymous, send me an email. Put in a fake name/email on the contact form if you’d like 😀
Most of these are US based organizations, so please send any info for non-US based groups that work with mental health issues that I may not be aware of.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- Mental Health Resources
- National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
- Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 x 1
- Vet Center – a resource for US veterans
- PTSD Info
- Center for Mental Health Services – provides a resource sheet for services available in each US state
- Parent Center Hub – resources for parents with children dealing with mental health issues
- Anxiety Social Net
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Postpartum Progress – support groups for postpartum depression in the US and Canada as well as an online forum
- Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America
- International OCD Foundation
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- After Silence – support group for victims of sexual violence
- Eating Disorder Hope
- Sex Addicts Anonymous
- DailyStrength – provides a support group for people dealing with self-injury