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Clay Shirky On Hackers and Depression: Where's the Love? 319

Posted by timothy
from the suicide-hotline dept.
giminy writes "Clay Shirky has a thought-provoking piece on depression in the hacker community. While hackers tend to be great at internet collaboration on software projects, we often fall short when it comes to helping each other with personal problems. The evidence is only anecdotal, but there seems to be a higher than average incidence of mental health issues among hackers and internet freedom fighters. It would be great to see this addressed by our community through some outreach and awareness programs."
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Clay Shirky On Hackers and Depression: Where's the Love?

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  • License? (Score:5, Funny)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:29AM (#42679867)

    It would be great to see this addressed by our community through some outreach and awareness programs.

    I assume these programs would be released under the GPL, or some other open-source license?

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:31AM (#42679895)
    Take these SmaxoGlythKlein brand pills so you are more normal. You want to be normal, right?

    Who is this guy, and why does his opinion matter?
    • by lxs (131946)

      More normal than normal is our motto!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
    • by X0563511 (793323) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:01AM (#42680137) Homepage Journal

      In all seriousness, there seems to be correlation between intelligence and tendency for depression.

      It could be that being a hacker and being depressed are just two end products of being smarter than the average bear.

      • In all seriousness, there seems to be correlation between intelligence and tendency for depression.

        It could be that being a hacker and being depressed are just two end products of being smarter than the average bear.

        And poets tend to be bipolar. And remember van Gogh and his ear. We happen to be a part of a distinguished society!

      • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:16AM (#42680249)

        In all seriousness, there seems to be correlation between intelligence and tendency for depression.

        The stupid don't realise how fucked up things are.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And, the "stupid" tend to regard geeks as aberrations. Even when one knows that one's special skills (and accompanying unique traits) are valuable, being widely regarded as weird and being made to feel out-of-place nearly everywhere one goes does tend to make one brood.

      • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:18AM (#42680267)

        I used to think depression was an intrinsic part of my personality, like introversion. Then I started taking Vitamin D supplements and the depression went away. I'm still a misanthropic curmudgeon, but I'm a *happy* misanthropic curmudgeon.

        My point is, you don't have to give up the things you like about yourself in order to get over depression. And in some cases it can be as simple as turning on a flourescent light [wikipedia.org] or taking a cheap over-the-counter vitamin.

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:33AM (#42680371) Homepage

          Oops. That's not the Vitamin D. We mislabeled the Prozac.

          So Sorry.

        • by WilyCoder (736280)

          I experienced the exact same results as you. I now take 4000iu each day and I no longer get terrible winter depression each year. In fact it is winter right now, and I feel fantastic. My energy levels are normal and I don't yearn to be in bed all day.

          I think living in an office year round has really taken its toll on my health. Vitamin D fixed all the mental health symptoms I had.

          Now if I could just get off my fat ass and exercise to fix the rest of me...

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Does it out perform placebo control in double blind studies?

          • by SirGarlon (845873)

            I don't care. My doctor said Vitamin D deficiency causes various problems including depression. He recommended a dosage. I tried it, it worked. A sample size of one is all I personally need.

            • by Hatta (162192)

              That's how people who get conned by psychics, mediums, reflexologists, magnet therapists, etc, etc, think. Hell, that's how audiophiles think. You're smarter than an audiophile, aren't you?

              • by jvkjvk (102057)

                So if a placebo cures *your* cancer you should try to get it to come out of remission?!?

                That is essentially what you are advocating.

                A sample size of one is all that is needed if it works for that one person, especially of the desired result is something like "happiness".

                YMMV

                YOUR milage may vary...

              • by Jmc23 (2353706)
                It's not a con if you get the result you paid for.

                At least placebos don't cause birth defects.

                I always think there's something wrong with people who see placebos as the devil. Here is something that is totally free and is usually within 5-10% effectiviness of pills that cost billions and have thousands of side effects. Yes, let's all look down on the dumb people.

              • by SirGarlon (845873)
                Actually I think it's very ill-advised to practice medicine without a license, even on myself. That's what you seem to be suggesting -- to make decisions based on medical literature without actual medical training and clinical experience. No thanks! I'll take my doctor's advice instead. Just because I can read doesn't make me an expert on everything.
                • by Hatta (162192)

                  The truth is, doctors aren't experts in everything. In fact, from my experiences with med students, they're not very bright at all. And once they're out of med school, they get most of their training from pharmaceutical representatives.

                  Never do anything your doctor suggests without checking to see if its sensible. He very well might be talking out of his ass, and not even know it. Their egos prevent them from acknowldging that they don't know everything. They put their personal experience above what the

                  • by SirGarlon (845873)

                    In fact, from my experiences with med students, they're not very bright at all.

                    Perhaps they're just different from you. Medical school makes people kind of obsessive. All the actual, practicing doctors I know, both personally and as a patient, are at least as smart as the folks I encounter in IT.

                    Their egos prevent them from acknowldging that they don't know everything.

                    A senior neurology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital (read, "a very successful doctor") told me, while he was examining me, that me

          • by Americano (920576)

            Why yes, yes it does.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9539254 [nih.gov]

            So,out of curiosity - do you ask the same question whenever somebody says, "My doctor recommended this treatment for me, and it worked very well," or were you just going for "+5, Smug and Willfully Ignorant"?

            • by Hatta (162192)

              Yes, I do. And when my doctor offers me a treatment, I ask them the same thing. You'd be appalled at how often the answer is "I don't know."

              • by Pope (17780)

                Cool, So you solution is to never try anything at all. Let us know how that's working out for ya :P

            • by Hatta (162192)

              BTW, here's [bmj.com] something a little more recent(2011).

              Studies reported a wide range of different populations, interventions and outcomes which preclude an overall synthetic meta-analysis. Preliminary data from prospective studies show an association between low vitamin D levels and subsequent depressive symptoms. Data from trials are mixed, with the largest RCT showing no beneficial effect of supplementation on depressive symptoms, while most smaller studies (6/9) show a positive effect of vitamin D supplementat

              • by Americano (920576)

                Funny, I show you a study that showed in a randomized, double-blind study, that Vitamin D supplementation was shown to be a statistically significant treatment for seasonal-related depressive symptoms. In response, you say "nuh-uh," and link a study that is a review of many studies and attempts to draw conclusions about Vitamin D's efficacy across all types of depression.

                The fact that Vitamin D appears to be an effective treatment for one type of depression, but not all, does not negate its usefulness as a

                • by Hatta (162192)

                  That's fair enough. I was thinking about Vitamin D for my own depression, which is not seasonally linked. The world does not suddenly get more just, or present more opportunity, just because the Earth's axis is pointed towards the sun.

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                The science may be shaky, but in the case of a cheap solution with few if any negative side effects that does seem to work for many people it would be irresponsible *not* to try it before much more expensive/invasive solutions. Even if the cure is a placebo effect in many cases that doesn't make the patient any less cured, it simply means we don't actually understand the cause of the cure - there's a reason we use double-blind trials even in studies where the medical effects can be objectively measured. It

        • How long have you've been taking them? If not long, how do you know it's not a placebo effect?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:33AM (#42680375)

        Actually it makes perfect sense. The more intelligence, the sooner a person will come to realize basic facts about the world, such as:

        1. It is filled with injustice all around. Some of it can be fixed, most of it can not be fixed.
        2. Most of what can be fixed will never actually be fixed, due to reasons such as status-quo and conflicts of interest, corruption, bribes, lobbying and differing ideologies.
        3. Society has become so huge and complex that it is impossible for a single individual to effect meaningful change in a lot of issues, unless one becomes a professional politician, in which case, go back to point number two. Never mind that most intellectuals are not suited to this role due to the different skill-sets required (mainly social ones instead of analytical) The alternatives are extremes like blowing yourself or other people up, or more mildly, DDOSing the organisation that sparked your ire, or protesting by camping on the street. Either one is more likely to harm your cause than help it as people will either call you a 'terrorist', 'immature script-kiddie' or (soon to be) 'homeless bum who should be working instead of protesting'. Thus the hacker individually is powerless.

        This comment turned out longer than I thought it would.

        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          Unfortunately, intelligence has nothing to do with wisdom.

          The wise realize that a single individual has an impact on everything that he comes into contact with. Since we are in a closed system, every action you take has the potential to spread to all parts of the system. Choose your actions wisely.

      • http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28depression-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 [nytimes.com]

        Andrews found a significant correlation between depressed affect and individual performance on the intelligence test, at least once the subjects were distracted from their pain: lower moods were associated with higher scores. “The results were clear,” Andrews says. “Depressed affect made people think better.”

        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          Depressed affect /= depression. I depress my affect anytime I need to think clearly. It's switchable, which is why affect got depressed AFTER Raven's matrices.
      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Hey, there's even a correlation between jocks and physical injuries! What new great mysteries lie ahead of us?

        Hell, we might eventually learn tools need to be maintained or they can't do their job properly anymore. It's going to be hard for a disposable culture to actually learn how to maintain body, mind, soul (whatever the hell the last one means).

      • by Dekker3D (989692)

        Let's put it another way: our thought processes are the result of years upon years of experiences building on top of one another. Any mental difference is bound to have a big result.

        Perhaps we don't just think differently than the norm and get depressed and stuff because we're geeks and artists-.... perhaps we're artists and geeks because we think differently than the norm and grew up with a different viewpoint.

    • by magic maverick (2615475) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:04AM (#42680159) Homepage Journal

      Clay Shirky [wikipedia.org] is a "writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies", something he's been doing since 1996. He has written a heck of a lot of stuff on the topic, and is presumably some sort of expert. He isn't just another blogger.

      In this piece he says something that many people have said before, but is framing it in a different manner. The cultures and sub-cultures that we are part of need to be more caring. We need to be there for our friends and compatriots. We probably can't help much, most of aren't professionals. But simply being there and being supportive is helpful.

      The thing is, that people do kill themselves. There are various reasons, some of them can be fixed easily. E.g. by adjusting chemical balances in the brain. Others have an external cause. Some are harder to fix, but might include removing the cause of the problem (bullying or terrible conditions). Some of them can't be fixed. What we as a community can do is provide as much support to people as we can, and help them get the help they need.

      • Clay Shirky is a "writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies", something he's been doing since 1996. He has written a heck of a lot of stuff on the topic, and is presumably some sort of expert. He isn't just another blogger.

        He is not however a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or any other form of mental health or medical professional. On those topics, he is indeed just another blogger.
         
        The cynic in me says that since he is "writer and consultant", he's just riding the Aaron Swartz wave for hits and street cred. Next week he'll be off on whatever nine days wonder captures the attention of the blogosphere.

      • by Miamicanes (730264) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @12:26PM (#42680763)

        > The cultures and sub-cultures that we are part of need to be more caring

        Actually, our communities DO tend to be "more caring" -- we just happen to have a different definition of "caring" than most people.

        If somebody who's known on a computer/tech-related forum says that he's depressed because he feels overwhelmed by ${some-problem}, he'll get dozens or hundreds of replies, most of which will be genuine attempts to be helpful, with specific suggestions for things to try and solve that problem. Some might be from people willing to work quite hard to help solve their specific problem.

        What he's NOT going to get are warm, fuzzy, "tell me about your feelings about the world's unjustness" replies.

        It's just how we are. We're systemizers, not empaths.We love to solve problems. We get annoyed when people whine about things that can't be defined and constrained to some clear context or scope where it's possible to define what even CONSTITUTES a "solution"... unless we happen to be in a mood to commiserate. The fact that such commiseration tends to amplify, reinforce, and legitimize the other's depression is just an unfortunate side effect.

        Imagine, for a moment, a hypothetical Slashdot story with a headline like "Joe Python is a programmer who wants to kill himself in the most efficient way possible... what are his options, what are the relative advantages and drawbacks of each, and what equipment will he need to procure in order to carry it out?" Does anybody doubt for a NANOSECOND that it wouldn't get several hundred replies, 90% of which would involve lethal injection cocktail recipes, nitrogen asphyxiation, pre-suicide arrangements for the care and feeding of pets, equipment reviews, countdown checklists (wipe computer, note passwords you want to share with others, update your will, etc) and other suggestions that are mostly intended to be helpful by posters for whom it doesn't quite sink in that the guy wants to literally kill himself?

        We DO care. We'll work hard to solve the problems of people we care about. We just won't pretend to care when they go on and on about something they can't be reasoned with. By the time we feel like we've made our third full circle without progress or resolution, we'll get bored and go to lunch. Or head over to Slashdot.

  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:34AM (#42679915) Homepage Journal

    So cute when people get full of themselves and take on a title like that. Sometimes the depression is when that lofty self-perception is a kite that gets snagged in one of the trees of reality.

    I suspect it's also that a lot of us became computer types after neglecting human ties to some degree, and once we get old enough we either come back and learn to deal with people, or we become increasingly lonely and unbalanced as we age. Sometimes both.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I agree with your assessment, though I also think it might have to do that exactly those people who are more analytical/critical towards how daily life is run, also get more disappointed by the lack of change towards the 'good' direction. Sometimes I wish I was capable of living in ignorable bliss (or whatever the proper saying is), as I can be quite jealous at people in my surroundings who don't give a flying fuck about what's going on around them.
      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Maybe they wonder why you guys wander around bitching about things that can't be changed and don't understand why you can't give a flying fuck about all the social things that are happening around you that could be changed?

        Why, there's a novel idea, different point of views lead to different concerns. Who would have thunk it??? Now we just have to wait for people to get over the 'individuality indoctrination' they've undergone and realize that points of view are just different configurations your mind/bo

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {hmryobemag}> on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:44AM (#42680017) Journal

      And here's your answer. People fighting what appears to be a losing battle for a cause completely unknown to most and trivialized or even demonized by many who do...it's completely understandable.

    • So cute when people get full of themselves and take on a title like that.

      Well, given how easy you find it easy to feel very superior to others, I'm going to guess that you don't suffer from depression.

      But wait...

      Sometimes the depression is when that lofty self-perception is a kite that gets snagged in one of the trees of reality.

      Better watch out. Though if your self-perception is a balloon it will just happily float off into the stratosphere never to touch ground again.

      Can we stretch the analogy further?

    • So cute when people get full of themselves and take on a title like that. Sometimes the depression is when that lofty self-perception is a kite that gets snagged in one of the trees of reality.

      I suspect it's also that a lot of us became computer types after neglecting human ties to some degree, and once we get old enough we either come back and learn to deal with people, or we become increasingly lonely and unbalanced as we age. Sometimes both.

      The second sounds like it comes from life experience... but that first line is full of snideness.
      Have you been beaten down so much you no longer try to go beyond your own limitations?

    • Spoken like someone who has absolutely no understanding of clinical depression. Here's a hint: it's not just feeling bad about something bad happening.
      • by Improv (2467)

        Ad Hominem doesn't work that well when you don't know the person you're speaking with.

  • by jnelson4765 (845296) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:36AM (#42679933) Journal
    Most activist communities have a higher than normal incidence of mental health issues. Personality disorders, paranoia, anger management issues, I've seen a lot of them in various political activist groups.
    • It's not just activist communities. Numerous studies have shown that the more creative someone is, the higher the prevalence of mental disorders such as depression.

      Writers such as Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway, Philip K. Dick and others, had a history of depression. Look at Poe while you're at it.

      For whatever reason, creativity and mental disorders go hand in hand.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Intelligence as well, not just creativity (assuming you are not considering creativity a form/product of intelligence)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:11AM (#42680207)

        As a former art student, I used to see the same thing in the halls of art school. Students were very creative, full of self-inflated egos ready to do the next big thing. The problem was, we all had our own reality distortion field. Another problem: lots of depression going on, resulting in poor people-relationships. Now that I've been out of school for nearly a decade, the artists who "make it" aren't necessarily the most talented, but are the ones who can relate to people and gallery owners. In other words, there's a salesmanship aspect to their pitch - some people call it charisma. I don't mean that in a bad way, but they've come to understand other people's emotions and some are even married. I didn't become a big shot artist but I have an office job.
        Artists get this reputation of being lovers or some crap like that, but trust me, we don't retain relationships. On a final note, I don' t consider wannabe geeks or emo/ hipster kids to be 'artists' in my above commentary, but I think they have different issues to work out.

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      So now in addition to all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average, all communities have above normal incidents of mental health issues?

      The things you describe, there's a lot of that everywhere.

    • I will second that.

      I worked my way through school at at a food collective ( co-op ) on campus. Many of my coworkers were regular activists. In the years since I've also interacted with activists for issues I care about.

      It is true, many of them have problems, some of which they aren't aware of and that they are using the cause as source of catharsis.

      To be fair, MOST people have problems and many other people get into things because of their problems, rather than thing itself. No disrespect to anyone, b

  • Great idea! Let's have some entity set up a helpline for hackers and internet freedom fighters, complete with a call center. Since there are mandatory record-keeping laws, they can also keep track of who they are talking to, what phone number they are using, and details about the call. Nothing in there would be ripe for governmental abuse. Who cares about subpoena's and government fishing expeditions?

  • What love? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:39AM (#42679973)

    Post anything regarding how you feel on almost anyplace on the internet, and all you'll get in return is mocking and derision.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:41AM (#42679989)

    >> It would be great to see this addressed by our community through some outreach and awareness programs.

    OK, who let the social worker on Slashdot? Seriously, when has "outreach" or "awareness" ever solved anything? (Urban violence? Drug use? What?)

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Seriously, when has "outreach" or "awareness" ever solved anything?

      Actually, it may be in the process of at least reducing a serious problem, namely human trafficking: Because of the 'awareness' efforts, lots of states in the US have been passing laws to stop it, and because of the 'outreach' efforts there are groups helping people escape from their post-trafficking slavery.

      Your instincts are right, though: Outreach and awareness programs are often about preserving the organization who's doing the outreach and awareness, not about solving the problem.

    • Exactly. That is what you are "supposed to say" but those might be completely ineffective tools for solving the issue.
      • by thesandtiger (819476) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @12:19PM (#42680715)

        Increasing the general level of knowledge (awareness) about mental health issues is certainly a benefit when talking about the issue of depression in a certain subgroup.

        Many people I run across in tech circles have positively medieval notions about mental illness - people who are depressed are depressed because of personal weakness/defects, etc. As a result, many will not be willing to acknowledge that they, themselves, are experiencing depression, or might think that they should just toughen up and gut it out, and eventually the consequences can be quite dire.

        Making it easier to get help when you need it - without judgment and without making people jump through hoops (outreach) will also help.

        Imagine how much better things could be if people stopped being ashamed over shit they had no control over and were able to easily get help to make it better? Imagine how much better things could be if you didn't have people actively mocking and dismissing even the mere suggestion that things could and should be better.

        You guys are also thinking in the wrong terms - social issues don't get "solved" - they get improved. Real life is messy and complex and there isn't one true solution - it's not as simple as most engineering problems. That you guys don't seem to recognize that says more about your inability to think clearly outside of your discipline than it does about the disciplines you dismiss so easily.

    • by X0563511 (793323) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:10AM (#42680203) Homepage Journal

      It's solved plenty of individual problems.

      So, you're saying because it can't fix the problem for everyone all at once, it's not worth doing?

    • by somersault (912633) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:59AM (#42680599) Homepage Journal

      Seriously, when has "outreach" or "awareness" ever solved anything? (Urban violence? Drug use? What?)

      There are examples. I haven't looked for any myself, but I heard about this one as I do Parkour:

      According to figures from the Metropolitan Police, when sports projects were run in the borough of Westminster during the 2005 Easter holidays, youth crime dropped by 39 per cent. The following year, the most recent for which figures are available, when parkour was added to the projects, youth crime fell by 69 per cent.

      Source [independent.co.uk]

    • Here's an example that should be near and dear to those reading this site:

      Open source.

      Or, do you think that somehow, magically, open source became a thing without activists helping to increase awareness of benefits (or even existence) of OS solutions and reaching out to various organizations and individuals to get them to try it?

      And here are some social issues that have been greatly improved by outreach and awareness:

      When I was a child, if you were physically disabled you were pretty much fucked. Want to go

  • I believe that was Steven Wright, but whoever said it was correct

  • I wonder if we get so focused on the technology side of our world that we forget that this work (programming, architecting systens, etc) has a significant creative side and as such the problems that often plague other creative groups. The anguish and troubles of writers, painters, etc are well documented and seemingly (to me anyway) an accepted part of embracing their work. I know that in my own case letting on that I am anything less than 'normal' has been a scary proposition because of the threat of not

    • by Hatta (162192)

      And Clay's advice near the end (you did read that far, right?) is dead on. We're a group who likes to fix things. We are not trained to fix this. The best we can do is aim someone we are concerned about in the right direction.

      The unfortunate fact is that there's no way to fix depression. SSRI's don't work except for the most extreme cases, and then only provide a moderate easing of symptoms. Therapy works for anxiety patients, but regularly fails to outperform placebo. Only when poor controls (e.g. wait

      • The unfortunate fact is that there's no way to fix depression. SSRI's don't work except for the most extreme cases, and then only provide a moderate easing of symptoms. Therapy works for anxiety patients, but regularly fails to outperform placebo. Only when poor controls (e.g. waiting list) are used does therapy show significant results. And in my personal experience, it's obvious that therapists are nothing more than bullshit artists.

        Yeah, this is the unfortunate things that a lot of people don't realize, mental healthcare 'experts' aren't usually good at what they do. All those people who think more mental healthcare is going to stop the next gun massacre I'm sure are well-meaning, but they don't understand what mental healthcare is capable of. Especially since so many of the shooters were already under mental healthcare....

        There really is no hope for the hopeless.

        Well that is not true either.

    • Do we stop understanding people because we focus too much on technology, or do we focus so much on technology because we don't understand people?

      I'm my case, I suspect it to be the latter.

  • by PSVMOrnot (885854) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:54AM (#42680077)

    While the evidence he discusses may be only anecdotal, the conclusion he reaches is logical.

    There are certain lifestyle and behavioural patterns common among hackers which do leave us prone to depression and other mental health issues. We do tend to spend much of our time alone, engaged in solitary and sedentary pursuits of the mind which - while we may find incredibly rewarding and cool - those around us in meat-space just don't understand.

    Now add in the consideration that we tend to find ourselves on the metaphorical wild frontier of the technological world we inhabit. In a place where we are carving out the basis for the new and interesting but always having to look over our shoulders in fear that some technologically inept idiot with a bunch of lawyers with come along and either crush what we have built or steal it from us.

    Added to this we, due to our lifestyles, often lack the aspects of life which are typically used to de-stress and prevent depression: good diet to provide the required thinking fuel (no, caffeine and sugar aren't enough), exercise for endorphins to let us forget the shit of the world for a bit and physically present people for company so we can put things in perspective.

    Finally, consider that we have both good reason to be down about things and due to our lifestyles tend to lack the things which help prevent depression... yeah, it's not a surprising conclusion.

    So, what can we all do about it?

  • AKA, there is no evidence. (There is such a thing as anecdotal evidence, but I don't see any in this case.)

    The news is biased. A high profile hacker commits suicide. How many hackers didn't commit suicide that day? That doesn't get covered.

    We're also biased for our group. It's like how you buy a car, and suddenly that model of car is everywhere. Those cars were there before, you just didn't notice them because they weren't your car. You noticed the story about the hacker committing suicide, but do yo

  • Critical thinking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:57AM (#42680097) Journal

    Critical thinking is part of the problem. If you've trained your mind to see the world as it actually is, then you're less likely to have comfortable illusions to fall back on. And because other people don't like having their illusions questioned, you don't have much of a social network to fall back on either.

    And then when you look for help, you find that psychiatry is bullshit just like everything else. SSRI's don't actually work except for the most severely depressed. And therapy... well when your problem is that you see the world accurately, what exactly is therapy going to do?

    Even if you could stop thinking critically, is that an ethical thing to do? Most of the world's problems are due to not enough critical thinking, so if you have that skill and don't use it, you're deliberately becoming part of the problem.

  • by assertation (1255714) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @10:59AM (#42680115)

    When I first read this post I thought " yes, but what can be done?". I've been a programmer for 13 years. Socially maladjusted people are all over the industry. You can't force people to take a look at themselves and go get help.

    However, there is the power of the example. Look how many IT types went from being obese to slim with John Walkers "The Hacker's Diet".

    What is needed for high profile ubergeeks to publish their own accounts cleaning up their mental health and perhaps providing a geeky way, a "Hacker's Diet" for mental health and social skills ( beyond the ground covered by the PUA community ).

    I'm sure there are at least a few ubergeeks who had mental health issues, social adjustment issues and who overcame them. It is time to publish.

    • by bmacs27 (1314285)

      I'm sure there are at least a few ubergeeks who had mental health issues, social adjustment issues and who overcame them.

      Drugs. Book done.

  • Jock Culture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bonker (243350) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @11:01AM (#42680139)

    One of the things I've noticed in the 'professional developer' community is that there is a bit of Jock Culture going on.

    First of all, you have a business environment that tends to favor younger, fresher talent and puts a LOT of pressure on aging developers to keep up with their younger peers, many of whom are capable of (in the very, very short run) unhealthy work practices. 80 hour work weeks and back-to-back all-nighters are doable when you're 22 years old. They're fucking painful at 30, and ruinous by 35.

    And it's hard to say 'No' to them because we've just come out of a nasty recession when upper management is all too eager to lay you off in favor of younger developers eager to prove themselves.

    That shit WILL give you depression, anxiety, and insomnia, and all of those kill.

    Second, again with the Jock Culture, developer culture tends to be dominated by hot-headed males, many of whom are eager to replicate locker-room style pecking orders in the cube farms... and that crap just doesn't work when you're developing software.

    (Ex-military guys? I'm looking at you here. I've seen you do this shit. Stop it.)

    Sadly, those pecking orders are often directly related to pay. The guy who manages to wedge his way into the 'Project Lead' or 'Senior Developer' slot tends to have a few more dollars attached to them. Again, the pressure results in depression, anxiety, and insomnia which are proven killers.

    Shirkey's piece spends a lot of time talking about Aaron Swartz, but Aaron was a unique case of being uniquely and unfairly persecuted by multiple 800 pound gorillas. His depression and suicide *should* have been as fucking obvious to anyone who knew him as an 18 wheeler rolling the wrong way down the freeway.

    The answer to these issues is, perhaps a shade ironically, the same answer we should be looking at in regards to our sudden flareup of chronic school shooting disease:

    Mental Healthcare needs to be made a priority in this nation. We need to destigmatize ADMITTING mental health issues and seeking treatment for them. Also, we need to completely ditch the notion that drugs used for treatment of mental health problems cause more harm that good.

    Seriously, guys, when you're having daily panic attacks, when sleep won't come for days at a time, when the world starts showing up in black and white and more black than white... it's time to talk to a doctor. And if your doctor won't help, ditch him and find a doctor who will.

    Apropos captcha: Biopsy

  • Hey, doesn't sound like a bad idea to me. It would probably be 90% men signed up tho!

  • It's amazing how backward DSM-IV (and -5) can be in considering human behavior. Psychology gives lip service to evolution, then ignores it in determining the grounds for "mental illness."

    Let's consider kleptomania. Stealing is a behavior that is rewarded by evolution, and is a cross-species phenomena. The theft of resources is hardly an oddity in a few species like the cuckoo, but is a subset of general parasitic relationships, all of which are hard-wired into our biology. There is an endorphin rush from st

    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @12:32PM (#42680801) Homepage Journal

      Kleptomania is reduced to an illness in mental health, with no particular understanding of its origins. Obviously, we as a species would not exist were it not for the many evolutionary behaviors, including this one, that allowed us to survive. In a supreme gesture of arrogance, an overstatement of an evolutionary imperative becomes a sickness. We do not understand who we are.

      Alternately: What was once an evolutionary benefit is now an evolutionary impediment because the social environment itself has evolved.

  • Go outside, for the love of Science.
    • I second this. It's easy to isolate yourself as an IT guy. I went through a work-at-home period where I felt gloomy all the time. It took me a while to realize that isolation can lead to a feedback loop where you're gloomy and don't feel like being social; making your more gloomy. Working at home might be a utopia for some people, but I hated it.

  • ... is increasingly used as a catch all term for people who don't fit into the social order and won't be good little obedient workers who obey the corporate line, the lack of autonomy and the shitty pay/jobs.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q [youtube.com]

  • If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, consider increasing your intake of lithium [wikipedia.org], which is available over-the-counter. Statistics from Japan [bbc.co.uk] seem to indicate that it is effective. How much should you take? Unknown. Good luck.

    If you are depressed, consider increasing your intake of tryptophan, along with niacin [wikipedia.org], to increase your production of serotonin. I've also heard that saffron and tea have some impact. Your diet in general should be carefully researched.

    If you think that you drink too much alcohol,

    • by dave562 (969951)

      To your second point, if tryptophan is not available, 5HTP is a decent substitute. In either case, Jarrow Labs makes both of them, and their products are very pure.

    • More practical advice.

      If you are considering taking medical advice from /. don't.

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