Why technology professionals struggle with mental health

Matthew Henry / Burst / Used under licenseWhen a piece of technology works well and makes life easy, that doesn’t mean that the building of it went well or that the lives of the builders are easy. Many in the technology industry struggle with symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, they struggle with these symptoms much more often than the general population.

Working 50-hour weeks for months on end, having limited interactions with others, feeling multiple levels of oversight, and constantly being unsure whether your project will be used or scrapped — technology professionals experience all of this, typically with little or no recognition for their work. (Think about it: You probably use Gmail, but if you don’t know them personally, how many Google employees can you name?)

Ironically, the symptoms of depression and anxiety are known to be worsened by excessive time spent in front of a computer screen. It is easy to see how this lifestyle would take a toll on anyone.

Fortunately, some technology companies are now prioritizing mental health. Many of the major technology companies like Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and NVidia are actively working to include extensive mental health coverage into employee insurance plans. LinkedIn even has entire aspects of their on-boarding process dedicated to identifying mental health symptoms and strategies for self-care.

As mental health practitioners, we can and should do the following:

1. Encourage clients working in the technology field to actively and consistently engage in self-care strategies. Many people in these roles will benefit from an exercise routine, CBT-based approaches, and mindfulness exercises.
2. Focus on and attend to client strengths. Many people in technology companies are highly logical, detail oriented, and likely to direct their actions based on data. Often, this approach to life comes with difficulty identifying and verbalizing emotions. Rather than being concerned by the lack of emotional identification, therapists can instead focus on insight, logic, and solution oriented interventions.
3. Advocate on behalf of our clients and prospective clients by supporting efforts to increase insurance coverage for mental health services.

In my work with technology professionals in the San Francisco Bay area, I’ve been surprised at how often these talented individuals have come to me with horror stories of prior therapy. By meeting clients where they are, using their strengths, and developing clear treatment plans with specific goals, I’ve found that these professionals are ideal therapy clients: Open, genuine, and more than willing to do the hard work that therapy can entail.