This post was originally published here.
For the last five years, I’ve been immersed in the entrepreneurial technology ecosystem. While “unlimited vacation” and ping pong in the office may seem like attractive perks, they absolutely shouldn’t be the reason people jump into this industry. When it comes to the entrepreneurial dream, there are a lot of dark corners that don’t get discussed. In this industry, often the inputs get glamorized more than the outputs and things like pulling all-nighters or “crushing it” receive more attention than the struggles that go along with making that all happen.
I was compelled to write this piece after seeing Laurie Segall’s episode of Mostly Human on CNN. She did a wonderful job portraying the tech industry as not just the place where you can have fun in the office, but also as the place where you grind it out in hopes of making something bigger than yourself. My hope is that the more we write and talk about mental health, the more normal it becomes to discuss and hopefully heal within our industry.
The other night I came across a recent episode of CNN’s Mostly Human about “Silicon Valley’s Secret” — perhaps better known as the stigma around mental health. Even though 1 in 4 people live with mental health issues, we still can’t seem to talk about it. This episode covered the issue in one of the most genuine and direct forms I’ve seen to date.
When asked why she produced the piece, CNN’s Laurie Segall first said she felt she “needed to,” but only when prodded did she say felt she needed to because her aunt is schizophrenic. That alone is an example that shouldn’t need prodding. We all have an aunt, uncle, or perhaps ourselves who fall on different points of the mental health spectrum.
Mostly Human took a (fittingly) humanizing approach to portraying the struggles of mental health by highlighting just a few of the incredibly impressive people who have experienced it first-hand — depicting it not as a choice but as a condition. Emphasizing that people don’t choose to “commit” anything, rather they deal with the cards they are dealt and pointing out that the only way to reduce the stigma is to ignore it and speak openly despite of it. And specifically to the tech community, we need to realize that the struggle is more real than the facade of “crushing it.”
Hopefully, Mostly Human is the first of many pieces highlighting this shadow over Silicon Valley. With each additional post, video, or story, we get closer to eliminating the stigma until we no longer feel the need to shade when our loved ones, or ourselves, may be suffering from something they did not ask for.