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Yesterday during an Open Space at ServerlessDays Atlanta on tech and mental health, I said to the group that I suffered from burnout and suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I had just been on stage and delivered a keynote in front of hundreds of people. #mentalHealth
I'm still recovering from burnout (I'm not sure when you know when you've recovered) and only knew I had GAD last year after leaving AWS. I've been suffering with GAD probably since I was under 10. I'm 42.
It was probably the first time I acknowledged to a group of strangers that I had a mental health issue, as in many ways I don't see myself as having one. But it struck me that I do, and that my story would be helpful to at least one other, so I shared it.
I'm saying this because #mentalHealth problems are many and varied, as that discussion showed me. They can be extremely serious, and have incredibly damaging effects, but also long term and gradual.
The other thing that came out of that discussion for me is that tech - and especially the tech community in the US - doesn't have a good way of dealing with #mentalHealth unless it's literally life threatening or life limiting. This needs to change.
Being from the UK we have a National Health Service, and so my health care is not linked to my ability to pay or my work environment. That gives me the safety to know that I will be looked after even if my work environment fails me. In the US, that's not the case.
In the US there is a strong bond between work and healthcare. If work is the cause of or is exacerbating your mental health issues, then there is a real issue.
When I went to my doctor and started talking to him about "not sleeping", he suggested I go and see a counsellor simply because I needed a mental health checkup. There was no "I think you've got mental health issues" there. He suspected only.
It was only after an initial consultation with an expert and a diagnosis that I realised what I had been living with for over 30 years.

30 years. Even typing that makes me emotional.
If your employer does not give space for that kind of access, and to explore that kind of discussion, then there is a problem. And if an employee feels that accessing that kind of help may impact their job or possible career progression, then their mental health may suffer.
Tech is an amazing industry in so many ways, but we're really not identifying some of the issues around #mentalHealth. The discussion yesterday made me realise that ever more clearly specifically for US people. I know I'm not a US citizen but I see it more clearly from outside.
I have a #mentalHealth disorder. It is relatively mild, but I do get stressed and anxious under certain circumstances and that is definitely limiting. I would love to be able to do part time consulting work, but nothing of that nature seems to really exist.
As an industry we expect everyone to work 100 miles an hour all the time. Anyone who can't seems to be discarded. I don't think that's right. Maybe it's time we started to consider more flexibility, more care, and more opportunity for those who need it.
I constantly wonder whether we have limited our options as an industry only to those who don't have kids, who want to work in cities and who don't mind working long hours, with lower ethical standards. Maybe we should have a rethink.
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