If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be running the largest non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to mental health in tech… well, I'd have told you that was extremely unlikely.
If you'd told me 5 years ago that this organization would be dedicated to open source principles, and gives away freely all of the resources it creates, I'd have said "that doesn't seem sustainable."
If you'd told me 5 years ago we'd have a Slack for that organization with 30 members, all of whom have dedicated time and effort to changing the state of mental health in the tech industry, I'd have told you there's no way. I'd have also said "what's Slack, and why aren't we using IRC?"
But it's real. It's called Open Sourcing Mental Illness. And after speaking at over 50 tech conferences and meetups and companies, it became a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, with a board of directors and a team of dedicated volunteers. We raise awareness, we educate, and we do research and create resources where none have existed. We provide real, actionable information for tech professionals and organizations to be healthier, more productive, and save the lives of their colleagues and friends.
I'm here first to thank you for helping us get here. Every single person who saw a talk and told someone about it; every single person who gave some amount of money; everyone put a sticker on their laptop or wore a t-shirt or a hoodie. All of you are responsible for this. All of you made this happen, together.
And now I'm going to ask you to do more. A lot more.
Now think about the people you work with, and how many of them probably experienced a mental illness this year. I bet they didn't tell you.
And in our research, where we've heard from over 800 tech professionals in the U.S., half of them report that they have a mental health condition. One half.
The real number is probably lower, but let's imagine the real rate in tech is "only" 25%. or 30%. It's a huge number of our friends and colleagues.
But we still don't speak about mental health the way we do any other major category of disease or disorder. We are afraid to, and that makes getting help and recovering far more difficult.
From our 2016 annual survey, over 1500 respondents told us that:
We are barely scratching the surface of an enormously significant health issue in our community. And we need to do more.
Last year I asked for $10,000. I knew that was a lot. We reached that goal in 2 days, and more than doubled it in 30 days.
Now OSMI is positioned to start doing real, earnest, culture-changing work. We are engaging with more mental health professionals. We are gathering teams of volunteers and experts. We are ready to build something that fundamentally changes how we as an industry and a community operate. We can be healthier, happier, and more productive, both on an individual and an organizational level.
But we need your help. A lot of it. I'm asking you to help us raise $50,000 in the next 6 weeks.
We need that money to create the tools, documents, videos, and other resources to help more people. To educate more executive teams. To engage with more HR departments. To sponsor conferences. To speak at more events. To do more research. To engage and employ the experts we need to do the most help for the most people.
Because this industry is made up of people. Communities are about people. And this is our community.
These are our colleagues.
These are our friends.
These are our people.
And so many suffer in silence. Some of them we lose forever, and we are left to wonder why and regret and try to understand.
The only reason this happens is because of fear.
The only reason so many of our kith and our kin suffer in silence is because of fear.
We need to choose.
You, and I, and all of us. We Choose.
We can choose to give in to fear. We can hide, and be silent, and quietly accept this.
Or, we can choose to meet inaction with action.
We can choose to meet confusion with understanding.
We can choose to meet indifference with compassion.
We can choose to be Stronger Than Fear.
Founder, Open Sourcing Mental Illness
We will officially kick off our campaign April 24, but we wanted family and friends to get a sneak preview of what we have in store.
2016 was a big year for OSMI! We really took root as an organization, becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit – a milestone years in the making. Looking forward we are making plans to expand and grow our outreach, setting new goals in our mission to bring important mental health understanding and support to the tech and open source communities we love. With your support we have already begun changing how we talk about mental health, and our goals for 2017 can take this important work even further.
OSMI is poised and ready to move forward, but in order to do so ... we need still need your help!
Here are the key initiatives your contribution will make possible:
Conferences have proven to be the most effective, powerful way to reach out to and connect with others in the tech community, and we’re actively seeking to sponsor and speak at more of them in 2017.
We can engage and connect at events, but it’s important to be able to provide clear informative reference materials for folks to continue the process of positive change when we’re not around.
Mental health professionals play an important role in advising and providing insight into our handbooks and online resources, and we want to continue reaching out to and getting input from them.
In addition to the survey data analysis already being done, we'd like to take deeper dives into OSMI survey and other data, as well as translate the mental health survey into other languages to collect data from other countries.
We're enormously grateful to our supporters, because EVERY donation makes a difference. Whether used for expanding initiatives or for covering operational expenses, everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. We'll make sure you can see it too, with updates on our progress throughout the year. (We're already looking forward to it!)
THANK YOU for your support!!!
The OSMI Team