Mental health awareness initiatives have increased in the WordPress community, and in the tech community as a whole, in recent years. This has been welcomed by many, especially since 2007 when the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) surveyed adults in 37 States about their attitudes toward mental illness and found that:
- 78% of adults with mental health symptoms and 89% of adults without such symptoms agreed that treatment can help persons with mental illness lead normal lives.
- 57% of adults without mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.
- Only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness.
Stigma Still Exists
Although the CDC survey was conducted ten years ago, unfortunately, the stigma of mental health still exists. As Mental Health America reported last year:
- 1 in 5 Adults have a mental health condition. That’s over 40 million Americans; more than the populations of New York and Florida combined.
- Youth mental health is worsening. Rates of youth depression are increasing and even with severe depression, 80% of youth are left with zero or insufficient treatment
- More Americans have access to services… Access to insurance and treatment increased, as healthcare reform has reduced the rates of uninsured adults. Today, 19% of adults remain uninsured in states that did not expand Medicaid. While 13% of adults remain uninsured in states that did expand Medicaid.
- …But most Americans still lack access to care. Today, 56% of American adults with a mental illness did not receive treatment. Even in Vermont, the state with the best access to care, 43% of adults with a mental illness did not receive treatment.
- There is a serious mental health workforce shortage. In states with the lowest workforce, there’s only 1 mental health professional per 1,000 individuals. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses combined.
- Less access to care means more incarceration. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama had the least access to care and highest rates of imprisonment. There are over 57,000 people with mental health conditions in prison and jail in those states alone. That’s enough to fill Madison Square Garden three times.
Those statistics only cover the state of mental health stigma in the U.S. and not for any specific industry, like Technology. Fortunately, mental health awareness is being addressed by many people in tech, including in our own WordPress community.
The most recent example of an employer recognizing and supporting the need for mental health comes from Olark Live Chat CEO, Ben Congleton. One of his employees, a web developer from Michigan, sent an email to her co-workers stating that she was taking a couple days off to focus on her mental health.
Ben replied to that email by thanking her for her courage and said it serves as a reminder that taking sick days for mental health was important, and that every organization should make it standard practice. He also wrote an op-ed in the form of a post on Medium that has since gone viral.
WordPress and Mental Health Awareness
If you’ve attended any WordCamps in the past couple of years, you may have seen a session related to mental health and well-being. Two of the people highlighting awareness are Ed Finkler of OSMI and Cory Miller of iThemes.
Ed Finkler – Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI)
OSMI was started as a speaking campaign in 2013 at tech conferences and WordCamps worldwide. Ed spoke about his personal experiences as a web developer with a mental health disorder. The response was immediate and overwhelming, which prompted Ed and other volunteers to build OSMI into a non-profit that conducts data gathering and research to provide mental health resources to individuals and companies.
Cory Miller – Entrepreneurship and Mental Health
Cory is a former newspaper journalist and a serial entrepreneur, most notably for creating iThemes in 2008. In the past few years, Cory has been speaking about his personal struggles, mental illness, and doing a great job of destroying the stigma of “needing help” to thousands of WordCamp attendees.
I’ve also given a talk related to mental health named Avoiding the Pitfalls of Working from Home, where I discuss my first-hand account with isolation and depression, something that I hadn’t experienced before. Luckily, I was able to overcome this difficult period with the mental health resources available to me.
Bringing More Awareness to Mental Health in the WordPress Community
In order to continue the momentum for further awareness, it’s important for each of us to recognize our own preconceived ideas of mental health issues and disorders and reduce the stigma that remains. We should be aware that mental health issues are common and something that many of us are, or will deal with at some point in our lives.
By being cognizant of these issues and reducing the stigma surrounding them, we can continue to share our own stories and in doing so aand support each other within this tech community we’re all so invested in.
Free Mental Health Resources
If you’d like to learn more about the free mental health resources available to you, these links are a good place to start: