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Mental health in the digital technology industry

Victoria MacLennan. 30 March 2022, 6:52 pm
Mental health in the digital technology industry

I remember reading the headline "Tech Professionals most likely to see mental health decline due to pandemic" last year and thinking wow this is serious stuff. For my own teams during 2020/21 and even now in 2022 we focused on creating social connection opportunities, encouraging outdoor activities, taking breaks, offering access to yoga, meditation and EAP services. But it was still tough for many, especially those in Auckland who were locked down over and over again, home schooling their children, caring for elderly parents, juggling work and life in significantly stressful conditions.

I can imagine some of you rolling your eyes, thinking, why do we need another blog post on mental health and wellbeing?

I am writing this to remind us all that we are still vulnerable, COVID is still impacting our lives, many of us are losing loved ones or experiencing long COVID or have been significantly impacted by the resulting economic conditions. As an industry we often leave others to work alone, we forget to be kind, we underestimate the value of collaboration. As an industry we need to turn this on it's head, embrace kindness, embrace collaboration, value diversity and celebrate our differences.

Why is it important to discuss mental health?

I wrote a blog on this back in 2017 - pre-pandemic - telling a very personal story on the spiralling impacts of mental health. Lets be brave and talk about depression for a minute.

While my person is thriving today, sadly since then the overall situation in Aoteaora has not improved. According to Statistics NZ data, in 2018, the rate of serious (fatal and non-fatal) injuries from intentional self-harm was 18.3 injuries per 100,000 people.

The rate of serious non-fatal injuries from intentional self-harm was 6.4 injuries per 100,000 people in 2020. This rate has been trending upwards since 2015, when it was 4.1 injuries per 100,000 people.

My plea in that blog was this - If you are concerned about yourself, a colleague, family member or friend, or someone asks you for help engage professional support immediately, don't try to "fix" this yourself, you aren't qualified and this is not the time for kiwi DIY.

The story on Computer Weekly telling us that IT Professionals are most likely to see mental health decline means we all hold collective responsibility for checking on our peers. While we are no longer in lockdown many of us are primarily working from home - often not in ideal spaces, often without breaks due to the nature of "always on" zoom meetings, often making it difficult to separate work life from home life.

Wonderful women need to look after themselves too

In 2020 during lockdown I was also moved to write on this topic but specifically focusing on women. Women we need to look after ourselves too.

In this I blatantly "womansplain" in saying women often hold the mental burden of caring, communicating and managing the logistics of their lives.

My plea then was to remind the fabulous women in my life to take time out for themselves too. Pause, reflect and relax, create headspace - so you can be strong enough to carry the emotional burden of supporting your own whānau, colleagues and networks.

Again this is as valid today as it was then. Many of my friends are working and home schooling again, still caring for elderly parents, or others who are suffering from COVID. This is tough stuff to deal with no matter how resilient we think we are.

Where to get help

I am not a mental health expert. I am an employer, a friend and a supporter. As I stressed earlier if you are concerned about yourself, a colleague, a friend, a family member - please seek professional help.

Important Contact Details:  https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/

Your workplace may offer an EAP service - if they do please find out how to use it.

Here are some previous ITP blogs on mental health with further links:

Finally, if you can, do get involved in Mental Health week http://mhaw.nz/ this year it's September 22 - October 2nd. Personally I love to go into the garden and count birds!

Kia noho haumaru - stay safe - Vic

Vic is the CEO of ITP, you can read more about her here: https://techblog.nz/2817-Kia-ora-koutou-ITP-members-and-supporters

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