Mental Health Tattoos

Author: Joe Ferguson
June 21st, 2018

May was Mental Health month, and MensHealth.com posted the gallery 8 Guys Share the Powerful Stories Behind Their Mental Health Tattoos. After SunshinePHP 2017 I came home with the idea to finally get a semicolon tattoo. The semicolon project hits pretty close to home for me. I love the idea of stopping to pause and reflect. At SunshinePHP that year, I saw three or four different people with semicolon tattoos---it pushed me over the edge. I got my semicolon done and loved it.

semi-colon tattoo

The next thing I wanted to do was pay homage to the OSMI round logo. I’ve always loved our logo and I felt like that was the next tattoo for me. Right before php[tek] 2018, I got the badge logo done.

OSMI logo tattoo

The next step is to continue the mental health sleeve I started. There’s no telling how big I’ll go, but it’s a nice start; maybe I’ll add some color next.

While the semicolon will remind me to relax and breathe, the hands together remind me we’re all stronger than the fear that keeps us from talking about mental health openly and honestly. Since OSMI has been such a big part of my life the past year, it felt right to place it next to the semicolon.

Do you have a mental health related tattoo? Share it with us on twitter or facebook. We’d love to see it and hear your story!

Support OSMI While Improving Your Language

Author: Beth Tucker Long
June 19th, 2018

Looking for a fun way to support OSMI while improving inclusivity? The Ableist Jar is similar to a swear jar, where you drop a dollar into the jar each time you use a restricted word or phrase, and while the premise is based around donating money each time you use ableist language, the actual goal of this site is to raise awareness of ableist language. With The Ableist Jar, you can self-monitor if you prefer or get a group of friends or colleagues together and help hold each other accountable. It’s not always easy to notice when you use ableist language, so it can help to have others paying attention and helping you recognize when it occurs. The Ableist Jar was created by Nicolas Steenhout after — in his words — “a throwaway tweet” gained momentum. While this idea did not start out serious, the fruition of this project could make a serious difference in the lives and language of many, and all while benefiting OSMI’s work to educate and raise awareness about mental health. Visit The Ableist Jar to learn more about ableist language and what you can do to make your language more inclusive.

Why Men Don’t Talk About Depression

Author: Joe Ferguson
June 14th, 2018

In a recent Menshealth.com article three men talk about their mental health issues while also touching on topics such as why men feel they aren’t supposed to talk about their mental health so they don’t seem “weak.”

“It feels heavy,” he says. “It literally makes my muscles and body feel weighted. I feel sluggish and low energy.

This quote from the article resonated with me because when I’m about to fall into a bout of depression, this is how I feel. I’ve come to notice the trigger and can often pull myself out of it, but not always. It’s an important realization for me to notice these types of triggers so I can actively avoid them as much as possible. My typical solution is to go out and visit a user group, go to lunch with friends, or go to a casual event to hang out. This gets me out of the house and exposed to the sunlight and other humans.

The two most important parts of the article:

Go to your doctor.

See a professional, get help. If a doctor makes you feel shameful for seeking help, find another doctor.

Find someone you can talk to

This doesn’t have to be a doctor or therapist. You have to make that decision for yourself. What works for me at the moment is talking to my best friend who doesn’t suffer from issues but wants to understand what I’m going through. The other person I can talk to is my wonderful wife. She puts up with me, so she is going to be the first to notice issues even when I don’t right away.

Find your people.

Read the full article

‘Depression Doesn't Discriminate’ - Dwayne Johnson Shares How Depression Has Affected Him

Author: Beth Tucker Long
June 12th, 2018

Depression has always affected the life of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Aside from his own battle, Johnson has also been affected by family members with depression. He was only 15 when he saved his mother from an attempted suicide on a highway. After sharing this story on Instagram earlier this year, Johnson has done a number of interviews where he opened up more about his struggles with depression.

"Regardless of who you are or what you do for a living or where you come from, it doesn't discriminate, we all kind of go through it. If I could share a little bit of it and if I could help somebody, I'm happy to do it." -- Dwayne Johnson

Johnson often turns to exercise when his depression hits, saying, “For me, the going to do something, it sounds boring and cliche, but it is what it is with me, I gotta hit the gym." Studies have shown being active can decrease a person's risk of depression by 19 percent, but recognizing depression is an important first step. “Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone,” Johnson tweeted earlier this year.

Read more about Dwayne Johnson opening up about mental health in “The Rock on Depression: 'You've Got to Talk About It, and You're Not Alone'” in Men’s Health.

Pokémon Go: A New Kind of Therapy

Author: Beth Tucker Long
June 6th, 2018

Since Pokémon Go released in mid-2016, the game has exploded in popularity with reportedly more than 750 million downloads and an estimated user base of 30 to 45 million worldwide. Some may have expected the popularity based on the success of previous Pokémon games, but what was unexpected was the mental health benefits. People playing Pokémon Go have reported spending increased time with friends, making new friends, and increasing their physical activity levels.

Michael Van Ameringen, MD of McMaster noticed difficult to treat patients with severe social anxiety disorder and a lot of depression started to go out of their homes when they began playing Pokémon Go. “This led me to wondering if this game had the ability to be used as a mental health treatment, even though it wasn’t intended to do this," Van Ameringen said.

Others in the field agree. Kara Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, noted in 2016: "I see Pokémon Go being useful with my socially anxious and agoraphobic patients in two ways. It really gives them a set of tools and reasons to meet people. It is a naturally structured experiment where it draws people in to connect and is partially reinforcing, which is the best mechanism for rewarding behavior."

While long-term study is still needed, initial studies, like the one that Van Ameringen and colleagues presented at the 2018 American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in New York City, show positive improvements. Combining video games and mental health therapy will be an exciting area of study in the coming years.

Visit MD Magazine’s site to learn more about Van Ameringen’s study.

Data Released for the 2017 OSMI Mental Health in Tech Survey

Author: Beth Tucker Long
May 24th, 2018

OSMI ran their large-scale survey on prevalence and attitudes towards mental health among tech workers again in 2017. The survey aims to measure attitudes towards mental health in the tech workplace and examine the frequency of mental health disorders among tech workers. At OSMI, we will be using this data to help drive our work in raising awareness and improving conditions for those with mental health disorders in the IT workplace. We hope others will be able to use this data to further improve mental health education, awareness, and accommodations. The results are available on Kaggle, a service for searching and analyzing public datasets. You can view the data or download a CSV of the results for your own analysis from https://www.kaggle.com/osmihelp/osmi-mental-health-in-tech-survey-2017.

The 2018 Mental Health in Tech Survey is now open. The survey is anonymous. Please take a moment to help OSMI and their work by filling out the survey: https://osmi.typeform.com/to/xztgPT

WordCamp Dayton 2018

Author: Joe Ferguson
May 22nd, 2018

WordCamps have been around for a long time and feature the best from the local WordPress communities. It’s quite easy to get started building a WordCamp event in your area due to the great support of of the WordCamp organizational community. 2018 was the fourth year for WordCamp in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton has a vibrant WordPress community with monthly meetup events for all aspects of WordPress whether you are interested in blogging, SEO, plugin development, or which plugins or hosting to use.

The Open Source Talk that Changed My Life Wasn't Technical - talk by Joe Ferguson

This was my first time attending — let alone speaking — at a WordCamp event. I gave the afternoon keynote, "The Open Source Talk that Changed My Life Wasn't Technical", which is my own story about how I found OSMI and became a volunteer. If you are familiar with PHP conferences, it is quite common that the event does not reimburse speakers for travel or lodging. This is one of the main reasons OSMI spends much of its fundraising money on covering expenses for speakers to go to events they would otherwise not be able to attend. I’m grateful to all the OSMI supporters for their donations that let us send speakers to events. Speaking at events like WordCamp Dayton is the cornerstone of how we can get our message out. We not only reach the local attendees and sponsors, but many times attendees take our message back to their companies and we get feedback about their companies being open to our message. It’s heartwarming to hear about companies taking our message to heart and that employees can feel comfortable discussing mental health with their colleagues.

We talk about 10x developers as being a fairy tale, but you take a developer with crippling depression, get them to the right treatment, and they will literally be 10x more productive. - quote from Greg Baugues

I feel like the talk went really well. I got a lot of good feedback immediately after the talk and a lot of great things were said on Twitter. Speaking of Twitter: I had the chance to meet two more people from Nexcess who were really awesome and took some great pictures during my keynote:

Joe Ferguson with Nexcess employee at WordCamp Dayton 2018

Thanks to everyone who attended WordCamp Dayton 2018. I appreciate all of the attendees who came to see my talk, and thank you to all of the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors of WordCamp Dayton for making this event possible. If you are interested in attending an OSMI talk or event, be sure to check out our OSMI Events Calendar.

How to Approach Everyday Loneliness

Author: Kelly Sartwell
May 14th, 2018

“If you want to heal your loneliness, you first have to learn how to heal yourself, be there for yourself, and cultivate your own garden of love, acceptance and understanding.'' - Thich Nhat Hanh

Pervasive loneliness can be disruptive to the mental and physical well-being of anyone. For many the feelings of disconnection remain close by despite the growing number of channels linking us to other people. Mounting research indicates how extensive the reach of inner isolation can be, generating a sense of urgency and warnings from former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who called the current climate an “epidemic of loneliness.” The Cut asked several mental health professionals for advice on practical ways one might relieve feelings of loneliness, resulting in a short but informative collection of tangible efforts we can make. Some suggestions offer fast or immediate efforts, such as conversations with people we encounter throughout our day or spending time with some fluffy four-legged friends. While other ideas are focused on intentionally taking the time to know and discover your true self. Survey the full list of valuable suggestions in the article, “7 Therapists on What to Do When You Feel Lonely”.

My Mental Health Experiences

Author: Mark Railton
May 8th, 2018

On April 14th, 2017, I did something I thought I’d never be able to do— I stood up in front of a lecture hall with about 50-60 people in it and talked openly about my own mental health issues. There are two main reasons why I thought this would never happen. First, I get extremely apprehensive about public speaking to the point where it’s almost debilitating. Second, I thought no one would want to hear what I had to say on mental health in the software industry, especially as I am not a doctor or mental health worker.

When I was younger, much younger, I used to take part in public speaking festivals, and I really enjoyed them. Over the years, however, things changed, and inhibitions started to set in as well as severe anxiety. What if I stumbled? What if I started just waffling? What if I completely froze up and just couldn’t go on any more? Looking back now, it’s easy to see that this was the beginning of the anxiety issues that would continue until this day.

When I was about 21, I started to suffer really badly with heartburn, to the point where I’d wake up in the middle of the night in absolute agony. I went to see my general practitioner, and he said he couldn’t find anything amiss. Even an endoscopy was inconclusive, but he put me on medication to suppress the production of stomach acid to see how things would go.

I told a close friend about the new medication a few days later. He asked me to go to the doctor and ask for a different medication, as he was worried the current medication would make things worse with my depression. I immediately got defensive and asked what he was talking about because I didn’t suffer from depression. Sure, I would get a little low every now and then, but I thought that was just normal and everyone was like that.

After that conversation, I started to look back on my life and noticed that maybe he was right, but depression was something that no one talked about. I thought that if there were something there, my doctor would have caught it. Within a couple of years, I noticed I was having more and more depressive ‘episodes’ but still didn’t feel I could do anything about them. I felt that antidepressants were for other people.

When I was living abroad with my wife in Abu Dhabi, I was initially out of work, and I struggled, hard. I’m not an idle person. I can’t just sit around and live a life of luxury. This really started to play on me. After 3 months, I took a job in the local church working as an administrator, and while this wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing, it gave me purpose. A year later, I left that job as our first child was born, and I needed to stay home to look after him. Again, I struggled really hard being at home all the time.

Around this time, my closest friend from back home got in touch with me saying that he’d been to see the doctor. The doctor had diagnosed him with depression and immediately put him on anti-depressants. Towards the end of the call, my friend said that he wanted me to also go see a doctor because he’d seen all of his symptoms in me and was worried. I initially thought that he was just projecting his diagnosis onto me. After all, we were extremely close, but he persisted.

A few days later, I relented and went to see a doctor. I was very skeptical initially, and when the doctor mentioned that he recognized me from church, I almost lost it. I started explaining the conversations I’d had with my friend and how he thought that I was also suffering. The doctor quickly said that he agreed that I was suffering from depression and advised starting straight away on anti-depressants.

Once I got started on medication, things started to look up. I secured a remote job that got me back into the tech field doing support and eventually lead to me taking a role as a web developer - which helped get me where I am today. Medication, however, is not always the silver bullet people make it out to be. When I started on anti-depressants, I had friends who knew about my mental health issues say things like, “Did you forget to take your happy pills today?” It took me about a year or so to start to get a handle on my triggers and learn how to help myself. It’s not just all about medication, it’s also about looking after yourself.

When we moved back to Ireland in 2015, I was unaware of how prevalent mental health issues are in the tech community. It wasn’t until I attended PHP North West that year and sat in on a talk by Mike Bell where he talked about his own struggles with mental health that I realized that it was a much bigger issue. Around the same time, I started to hear of Ed Finkler and the organization he was putting together called OSMI. At the start of 2017, I became acutely aware that the message OSMI was working to spread needed to be brought to Ireland. We’re a small country with a fairly large tech community, and I knew that if I was suffering, there had to be others that were suffering as well. I reached out to Ed Finkler and asked about possibly partnering to try and bring the OSMI message to Ireland. I was immediately welcomed in as a volunteer.

In October 2017, I gave my first ever talk to a user group titled “Looking after your mental health, a guide for software developers”, which was the precursor to the recent talk I gave at PHP Yorkshire with the same title. That night, I had friends from PHP Dublin come up to me and thank me for being so honest and for having the courage to share the message I did. Personally, I don’t really see what I did as being courageous, I see it as performing a public service. I am eternally thankful to the staff and fellow volunteers at OSMI for the help that I’ve received, even in small ways, like the encouragement I received when I was initially struggling to come up with the talk I gave.

Mental health issues affect a staggeringly high number of people in the software community, but together, we can help to overcome the stigma. Stop by https://osmihelp.org/resources, and let’s get started!

Getting Back to the Things that Make Us Happy

Author: Beth Tucker Long
May 4th, 2018

Our culture has moved away from many of the things our species has traditionally been known for—things like being outside, living in tight-knit communities, being physically active, and having downtime alone with our thoughts. In fact, a study from the University of Virginia in collaboration with Harvard found a surprising number of people who had previously said they would pay money to avoid being electrically shocked would then voluntarily shock themselves instead of sitting quietly and thinking when forced to be alone in a room (with nothing else to do) for only 6 to 15 minutes.

Research is showing depression is on the rise. Could it be from the lack of these things in our lives? Forbes contributor, Alice G. Walton, has published a list of simple things we can do to get back to our traditional ways in an effort to improve our state of mind. You can read her thoughts in 8 Things We're Doing Wrong For Our Mental Health (And How We Can Do Better).