Meet the developer group trying to break the mental health stigma in tech, where moving fast and breaking things leads developers to burnout and health issues
In 2013, developer Ed Finkler founded Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI), an organization that promotes mental health in tech through online resources, handbooks, research, and speaking at tech conferences. OSMI data suggests that developers face higher rates of mental health issues than the general population. The group attributes this to how developers often find themselves working long hours with little sleep, leading to serious health risks and a heightened possibility of burnout. Volunteers at OSMI hope to break down the stigma of talking about mental health, encourage people to reach out for help, create a more supportive environment at tech companies, and provide free resources that anyone can use. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
There's a toll that can come with the "move fast and break things" mentality of Silicon Valley. While developers may work late into the night to hack the next big thing into existence, that also comes with the risk of long-term effects to their health and burnout. That's why developer Ed Finkler wants to raise awareness about mental health issues to the tech community and encourage people to talk about it. He started the organization Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI) in 2013 after he gave a talk at a conference for PHP, a programming language that has been used for building websites like Facebook and Yahoo. Rather than speaking on a technical topic, as was usual at the conference, Finkler opened up about mental health issues he struggled with since middle school, including depression, anxiety, and ADHD. After his talk, many people reached out to him, and Finkler realized he could do something more. "I felt like I struck a nerve, hit something that was important to talk about," Finkler told Business Insider. "I thought about what I wanted to do about that...Eventually what I sort of settled on is, hey, I like doing talks. I like doing technical talks, but what if I did a talk about mental health?" Since then, he's gone on to do 10 to 15 talks a year about mental health. OSMI was initially funded via Indiegogo campaigns, but is now a registered non-profit powered by donations and a team of volunteers. Its members create resources like online forums and handbooks, conduct research, and speak at tech conferences, including the prominent KubeCon. It also performs an annual survey of the IT industry to gather information on mental health issues in the developer community. That survey's findings are released under a Creative Commons license that allows anyone to reuse that content in their own conference talks, presentations, and research. The idea is to make it accessible to anyone. "It's in the tradition of collaborative learning and sharing in open source culture. We would talk openly about those kinds of issues," Finkler said. "There's something natural to that." 'There's nowhere to go for support' OSMI's research suggests that people working in the tech industry experience mental health issues at a much higher rate than the general population. According to OSMI data, 51% of tech professionals have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. By comparison, 19.1% of U.S. adults experience mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Stigma around mental health issues certainly isn't limited to the tech industry, Jen Akullian, psychologist and OSMI advisory board member, told Business Insider. But there are factors within the tech industry that might exacerbate the problem. "There are still those who believe that people who struggle with mental health are lazy and incapable and dangerous and shouldn't need to take treatment, or it's their fault," Akullian said. "We know from research that it leads to people not reaching out for help. It's more complicated for people in tech. There's a higher level of expectation that you function really highly." Some of that comes from the still-pervasive idea of "move fast and break things," the motto once championed by Facebook. "Tech seems to attract high-functioning motivated people that have high expectations of themselves," Akullian said. "When you pair that with an industry that expects a lot from you and an industry that's innovative, it means that for innovation to happen, there needs to be a lot of failure, and a lot of things have to break."
'They don't know where to go' Akullian says that tech workers are often put in high-stress situations where they don't have the opportunity to sleep, work regular hours, or go on vacation. Tech workers often find themselves isolated, as they spend a fair chunk of their day working alone, or work from their home or other remote locations. And many startups, especially earlier-stage ones, don't have an HR department to offer support or help when things go wrong. "A lot of them find themselves in companies where this area isn't given attention," Akullian said. "There's nowhere to go for support. People tend to keep it to themselves, and they don't reach out for help. They don't know where to go. It seems like a pervasive problem." The problem is serious enough that it can end careers, she says. "Sometimes it leads to burnout," Akullian said. "Sometimes it leads to people quitting their jobs or quitting their careers or being very unhappy and not feeling the best they can and being the best professional that they can." Exacerbating the issue, she believes, is the way that some tech companies focus so much on the outcome that they ignore the human cost of building their businesses. "There's a lot of real problems there," Finkler said. "There's also a tendency for plugging in people and looking at people as sort of a set of skills as opposed to a whole human being. That tendency to look for that and treat people as resources, I think, is really problematic. I think it's not good for employees and it's not good for employers." 'Companies are starting to get it' Akullian says that if there's any good news here, it's that the tech industry is slowly but surely coming around to understanding the scope of the problem — and take steps to address it, by working with the OSMI and undertaking other mental health support initiatives. "Companies are starting to get it," Akullian said. "If they want their employees to be most productive, most effective, most successful, this is an area that needs to be supported and at least a conversation where they feel comfortable approaching it and asking for help." OSMI's programs are so in-demand in the industry, Akullian says, as tech event organizers look for ways to help fight the stigma around mental health issues and encourage attendees to get whatever help they need, and employers look for ways to offer their own institutional forms of support. "As tech events are realizing how mental health is impacting their audience and professionals in the field, they're showing interest in bringing the conversation into their events," Akullian said. The goal is that by opening the platform everywhere, perhaps the OSMI can start conversations in places where they're most needed. "That's what OSMI is trying to do, break down the stigma," Akullian said. "When people start talking about it, we can refer our colleagues to someone, ask HR to put something in place for support, or at the very least, encourage people to reach out when they need help." SEE ALSO: Software freedom vs human freedom: A surge of activism is rocking open source developers, as programmers fight to stop their software from being used for 'evil' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A 45-year-long study discovered trends in successful hyper-intelligent children
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The coronavirus lockdown has made mental health startups more important than ever, according to founders and investors. Here's why the sector is exploding.
Mental health startups have seen a boom in usage since the coronavirus lockdowns in Europe took...Mental health startups have seen a boom in usage since the coronavirus lockdowns in Europe took effect. The sector had long been subject to stigma around mental health, therapy, and counselling in the UK and Europe, compared with the US. However, data from Octopus Ventures indicates that global venture capital investment in mental health technology increased almost five-fold between 2014 and 2019. "Whilst Covid-19 has helped to sharpen focus on the need for mental wellness — with so much uncertainty in the world — even before the pandemic, we're keen to invest in a sector that helps more people to focus on self-care, improving their mental health," said Eileen Burbidge, partner at London-based VC fund Passion Capital. Click here for more BI Prime stories. Mental health startups have seen a boom in usage since the coronavirus lockdowns in Europe took effect. The sector had long been subject to stigma around mental health, therapy, and counselling in the UK and Europe, compared with the U.S. Mental health, costs are estimated at $650 million in Europe according to the OECD in 2018 while in England alone, the Department of Health estimates that the cost of mental illness to employers is £105 billion ($136 billion). And that's not including the human cost of mental illness. However, data from Octopus Ventures indicates that global venture capital investment in mental health technology increased almost five-fold between 2014 and 2019. VC funding went from £120 million in 2014 to £580 million in 2019 but there is still a long way to go. "It's crucial that we open up a discourse around 'taboo' areas of health, and the venture capital industry has a role to play initiating this," Kamran Adle, early stage investor in the Future of Health team at Octopus Ventures, told Business Insider. "Mental health is a complex and nuanced field and no two individuals will have the same experience, meaning the issue cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach. To meet this demand, we believe investors will need to support a variety of companies and solutions as this is not a winner-takes-all market. In total, £2.04 billion was invested in mental health technology over those six years, representing 15% of total investment in digital health companies. Unsurprisingly, coronavirus has brought many ongoing mental health issues into stark relief with many traditional forms of support seemingly unavailable to most. "Whilst Covid-19 has helped to sharpen focus on the need for mental wellness — with so much uncertainty in the world — even before the pandemic, we're keen to invest in a sector that helps more people to focus on self-care, improving their mental health," said Eileen Burbidge, partner at London-based VC fund Passion Capital, in an interview. Startups are booming Much in the same way health tech startups in other fields have pivoted to support key and essential workers, mental health companies have seen spikes in usage during the pandemic. London-based Spill, a message-based therapy app designed to help improve workplace well-being, had the same amount of inbound enquiries in the past two months as the previous two years, the company told Business Insider. Month-on-month usage of its video therapy service is up four-fold since lockdown began in the UK. Similarly, another London-based startup Juno, which provides wellbeing services for employers, has seen weekly usage increase from 65% to 80% during lockdown, with users moving away from "traditional" wellbeing services like mindfulness, to things like help with sorting groceries, the company's CEO, Ally Fekaiki told Business Insider in an interview. Mental health provision in the workplace has equally become a key issue with many staff forced to work remotely, if at all, during the current crisis. UK tech startup Unmind is hopeful it can help treat some 10 million people going forward and praised the message of "kindness" being utilized during this year's Mental Health Awareness Week. The startup began offering its services to NHS workers for free during the pandemic and has had more than 30,000 essential workers sign up since March. "We cannot underestimate the long-term impact of this pandemic on our mental health, but should also remain optimistic about what this means for the topic," Nick Taylor, CEO and cofounder of London-based mental health startup Unmind, told Business Insider. Covid changes Investors are in agreement that more can be done to back mental health startups. Even before Covid-19, the sector had seen greater maturity and a general shift in values from both users and employers that mental health concerns had greater validity. "Covid has raised the importance of mental health overall, but also changed the way people are willing to communicate, and I believe those attitudes toward communication will remain post-Covid," Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Partner at early stage fund Seedcamp, told Business Insider in an interview. The inability to visit a therapist or enjoy other treatments, distractions, and medical benefits, has led people to consider virtual offerings more than ever. The expansion of telemedicine and greater trust in chat services offer a glimmer of hope that tech can change the way humans seek help for mental health issues. SEE ALSO: These are the 15 European health startups investors think will blow up during the coronavirus pandemic Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
TELEMENTAL HEALTH REPORT: How telehealth can help US hospitals and health systems manage the $238 billion mental health crisis
This is a preview of The Telemental Health Report from Business Insider Intelligence. Purchase this report. Business...This is a preview of The Telemental Health Report from Business Insider Intelligence. Purchase this report. Business Insider Intelligence offers even more healthcare coverage with Digital Health Pro. Subscribe today to receive industry-changing digital health news and analysis to your inbox. The US is in the midst of a swelling mental health crisis that's expected to slam the healthcare system with $238 billion in costs in 2020. Health systems and hospitals need to shore up defenses to prep for the ever growing number of patients with mental health conditions who are flooding into emergency departments (EDs) — which will only become more difficult to manage given that hospitals are contending with a thinning pool of psychiatrists. One way hospitals can more effectively triage patients and gain quicker access to mental health specialists when they need them is by equipping EDs with telemental health technology — which allows doctors to virtually connect with remote psychiatrists when patients come into the ED in need of a psychiatric consultation. Telemental health solutions have helped hospitals better allocate a meager army of mental health specialists, pare down wait times for patients, and optimize the flow of patients in and out of ED beds. And it's offering them an entry point into a growing telemental health market that's projected to balloon to $747 million in the US in 2021 — more than triple its worth five years prior. In this report, Business Insider Intelligence explores how the onus of the US' mental health crisis falls on health systems and hospitals, and how they can navigate the costly dilemma via telemental health. We first dive into the challenges providers are presented with amid the crisis and how traditional mental health strategies are falling short in addressing them. We then take a look at how some early moving health systems developed telehealth strategies to address their hospitals' unique issues and outline some of the potential barriers to adoption. Here are some of the key takeaways of this report: Deploying telemental health presents cost-saving opportunities for hospitals by way of stretching out shrinking pools of psychiatrists, avoiding value-based care (VBC) penalties that arise from unnecessary patient readmissions, and tapping into a new market of patients. Health systems varying in size, location, and spending power differ in their approaches to telemental health: Some rely on the power of currently employed mental health specialists, while others tap into a new crop by partnering with third-party vendors. We predict more health systems will turn to telemental health as the mental health crisis continues to swell and lay the pressure on EDs, but some barriers — like upfront costs and murky reimbursement policies — remain. In full, the report: Details the mental health crisis and how it's negatively impacting health systems and hospitals. Explains how implementing telemental health can help hospitals better manage mental health patients and best make use of staff and resources. Outlines how three early moving health systems are deploying telemental health — and the opportunities it presents for others like them. Considers what the future of telemental health looks like for health systems and what could impede and propel more widespread adoption. Want to learn more about the fast-moving world of digital health? Here's how to get access: Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now Sign up for Digital Health Pro , Business Insider Intelligence's expert product suite keeping you up-to-date on the people, technologies, trends, and companies shaping the future of healthcare, delivered to your inbox 6x a week. >> Get Started Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now Current subscribers can read the report here. Join the conversation about this story »
Check out the pitch deck this London-based startup used to raise $10 million to tackle mental health in the workplace
London-based startup Unmind just raised a $10 million Series A from Project A and Felix Capital....London-based startup Unmind just raised a $10 million Series A from Project A and Felix Capital. The company utilizes a tech led, digital approach to mental health provision in the workplace. "We live in a world where there is a totally unacceptable level of stigma around mental health," Dr Nick Taylor, CEO and cofounder of Unmind told Business Insider in an interview. "The negative impact on companies of poor mental health on companies is massive and we want to help change that." Click here for more BI Prime stories. London-based startup Unmind just raised a $10 million Series A from Project A and Felix Capital. The company utilizes a tech led, digital approach to mental health provision in the workplace. The funding is one of the largest Series A for a European mental health tech business. "We live in a world where there is a totally unacceptable level of stigma around mental health," Dr Nick Taylor, CEO and cofounder of Unmind told Business Insider in an interview. "The negative impact on companies of poor mental health is massive and we want to help change that." Mental health costs are estimated at $650 million in Europe according to the OECD while in England alone, the Department of Health estimates that the cost of mental illness to employers is £105 billion ($136 billion). And that's not including the human cost of mental illness. Unmind's premise is that prevention is better than cure, the platform focuses on helping employees get the most from their personal and professional life. The company's CEO is a trained clinical psychologist who has worked with mental health charities in the past. Unmind, founded in 2016, is accessible by more than 350,000 employees currently. Available anytime, anywhere, employees can measure and then manage their mental health by accessing tools and training related to sleep, nutrition, and work related street based on their individual needs. Current Unmind clients include companies like British Airways, Asos, law firm Slaughter and May, Just Eat and John Lewis. The startup has now raised a total of $14.7 million from investors and will use the funding to continue its growth plans, including hiring and improved products. "Mental health is the most incredible asset you have as a human being and learning that you can engage positively with it is most important thing," Taylor added. "We're very excited by mission we have to improve the mental health of 10 million people worldwide and this funding will help us to be a leader in this field." Check out Unmind's pitch deck below: SEE ALSO: A VC who looks for futuristic startups has just been made partner at one of Europe's leading funds. Here's how he finds 'science fiction' tech companies