Empathy as a Service: Supporting Mental Health in the Tech Workplace

Nara Kasbergen (20.Apr.2018 at 17:15, 50 min)
Talk at Longhorn PHP Conference 2018 (English - US)

Rating: 5 of 5

At any given time, 1 in 5 Americans are living with a mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, substance use disorder, burnout, or ADHD. Statistically, all of us working for an organization with 5 or more employees have at least one colleague who is affected. At the same time, the tech industry is often characterized by high stress, long hours, workplace pressure to be available by phone and e-mail after-hours or sometimes even while on vacation, social pressure to constantly network and attend conferences and make a name for yourself, and the precarious balance between trying to do good by contributing to open-source and maintaining some semblance of free time that doesn’t involve coding. Given how this demanding environment increasingly blurs the line between our professional and personal lives, how can we ensure that the most vulnerable among us aren’t being left behind?

As a community, the single most damaging thing we can do is continue to treat mental health as a personal shortcoming that can’t be talked about openly. We shouldn’t think of it as “somebody else’s problem”; the 4 in 5 of us who don’t currently have mental health disorders must do our part to help end the stigma. This talk will begin with an overview of key statistics about mental illness, followed by the efforts of the non-profit organization Open Sourcing Mental Illness (https://osmihelp.org/) to gather more data about mental health in the tech industry, the ALGEE action plan taught by the Mental Health First Aid (https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/) training course, and finally conclude with ideas and strategies for making our tech workplaces more accommodating and inclusive.

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Comments

Rating: 5 of 5

20.Apr.2018 at 18:34 by Chris Holland (14 comments) via Web2 LIVE

Very informative, interesting and inspiring. I leaned a lot about mental illness and what we can do to embrace neurodoversity. Thank you for a great talk.

Rating: 5 of 5

21.Apr.2018 at 14:16 by Daniel Kadosh (9 comments) via Web2 LIVE

Good research and wisdom about mental health in the workplace, and great suggestions to address several common situations

Rating: 5 of 5

22.Apr.2018 at 02:18 by Buster Neece (6 comments) via Web2 LIVE

I can hardly overstate how important mental health awareness and accommodation is in tech. The work we do is far more mentally (and psychologically) taxing than most people realize, and our "code-monkeys lack empathy" stereotype has done us no favors in helping to understand and address this situation.

Nara Kasbergen, perhaps despite being a self-described mentally healthy person, has a very solid grasp of the complex world of mental illness, the myriad of ways that it impacts us as both workers and individuals, and some of the biggest ways our industry can adapt itself to allow us to succeed even when our own heads "get in the way" sometimes.

As someone who (somewhat openly) struggles every day with mental illness, I applaud the tireless work of people like Nara, Ed Finkler and the rest of the team at Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI). I may not always have the resources or mental capacity to stand in front of a room of my peers, tell my story, and advocate for mental health awareness the way these folks do, but I am mighty glad they do. Someone needs to keep this discussion alive.

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