At the Intersection of Empathy and Technology
Takeaways from the AnxietyTech conference and thoughts on mental health and tech
Warning: This article contains references to emotions and feelings.
Having an open conversation about mental health can be difficult to initiate. The invisible nature of mental health obscures our ability to determine whether someone is actually struggling. It either goes unnoticed or feels too awkward a topic to bring up.
While working as a clinician in children’s hospitals, I found myself in a number of hard discussions with families in distress. This taught me the importance of engaging in difficult conversations rather than missing an opportunity to connect. These conversations can cause a moment of discomfort, but it is only a moment and can be so vital in supporting others to feel comfortable talking about their mental well-being. I later decided to make a move into software development (more on why another time), and over the past year or so, I have thought about the differences in human interactions between the two professions.
Moving from a very human-centered, empathy-driven profession to an industry that is a little less human-centric was (and still is) a big adjustment. I still consider myself new to the industry and have been lucky enough to find myself in the company of those who value growth and individuality. I have supportive colleagues and mentors and a good amount of autonomy in my role.
However, I know this is not the status quo. While speaking with others in the industry, I heard stories of burnout, discrimination, and the glorification of destructive work habits, which all aggravate mental illness. Not to mention the stereotypical image of a software developer as one who works alone, devoid of human interaction. That is quite different from my experience as a clinician, where my role was to protect and improve the health and well-being of the population and minimize health inequities. I wanted to find out if there was any crossover between empathy and technology. Is it possible to reclaim humanity within the tech industry?
Good mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness — it is your resilience…