The WordPress Community, Mental Wellness, and You (WordCamp CT Talk)

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This is something I have rewatched of myself speaking at WordCamp 2016 in Cape Town – mostly because I needed to listen to my own advice and reposting because I feel many should listen to this as well. This is for everyone.

Audio: The WordPress Community, Mental Wellness, and You.

Transcript (auto-generated)

Goodmorning, everyone.

So one of the things about public speaking is that you should try not to admit to the audience that you’re quite nervous.

I am. So one of the main reasons for that is this isn’t showing up at the moment.


this topic is extremely important. It’s serious. So that’s why I’m glad these guys

afterwards. And it’s extremely close to me, as well. There are three times so far in my life that indirectly, WordPress has helped me 10 years ago, when WordPress was mostly just a blogging platform, I started blogging about at the time I had a stutter. And I just wanted to put it out there because at the time, writing was the only time I could speak fluently. And other people started talking to me, I had comments, I felt like I had support. And I spoke away my stutter. And that has changed my life. Since then, I wouldn’t be able to do this today had I still had that. And then it became a profession five years later. And that’s what I’m doing now. And the third time that it has changed my life is what I’m going to be talking about today. So it is quite difficult, talking about mental illness, or mental wellness, in a development environment and how this can actually apply to you. So I’m going to try to do that today. And hopefully, we can put it together. So who is this talk actually for mostly, if you are a boss, and have employees or your Freelancer or you have colleagues, or if you’re a human who understands English. So as you can see, this is an array of different mental illnesses that we could have. And this isn’t the complete one. So it has been truncated a bit. So those are the four most common mental health issues in the world. One in four people have one of these issues. So in this room, today, there’s about 70 of you who can completely relate to any one of these. And the rest of you can help the other 70. And that’s pretty much what this talk is going to be about today and how we can help each other how we can help ourselves and essentially give back to the WordPress community.


the main thing that needs to change, or that hasn’t changed, yes, and which I haven’t seen change much lately, is that Firstly, there’s not much awareness about what mental illness or mental wellness issues actually are. And nobody knows what it actually means. People called people who have it crazy. And that’s what I want to change today, especially in this community. And with the help of everyone here. You guys know how to use WordPress, you can tell your story, you can tell a story of a friend and you can put something online and each one of you can change more lives outside of this room outside of today. And that’s what I really appreciate and like also around the stigma of it. We are a society that when someone breaks their leg, we all run to sign their cost. But if somebody is having a mind or brain issue like any of these, what happens? It’s just as bad and just as complicated and just as difficult for that person than someone who has broken a leg. And I mean, what would you rather say on Facebook one day, considering if you’re on Facebook and you do type everything that happens in your life like some people do. Would you rather say that you can’t get out of bed today because you have a back injury or a back issue. Would you tell the truth sometimes and say I just kind of get out of bed too, because I have depression, and it’s extremely difficult. Which one would you pick? So just to simplify it a lot. This is what happens in the brain of people who are happy in love, anxiety, and depression. And as you can see, there are three main chemicals in your brain that affect these. And those are the levels that happen when you’re feeling these things. So with understanding this, you can also understand or appreciate the fact that when somebody you know, or if you’ve experienced this yourself, tells you snap out of it, or leave it outside when you come into the office. You can’t do that if you have a broken leg, you can’t leave a broken leg outside. So this is a prosthetic.

This is a question we ask often. And what’s most common reply? I’ve been asked this question 16 times today. I’ve said I’m fine 16 times. Fortunately, I have lived 16 times. WordPress, and how it This is the third thing that I’m going to talk about of how I got me here. And I think the person who actually

gave me this idea because of how caring they are. And they’re part of the WordPress community, I think he’s actually giving a talk next. He gave me the idea that even as a community like this, even as a community of developers or business owners, or especially as a community of developers and business owners, to be honest, we have a higher risk of having mental health issues than most other professions, as well. So one in four people, regular people, most people have a mental illness to in five people in our profession does. So in terms of the WordPress community, there’s very little you need to actually do to help somebody next to you or to be helped by somebody in your life. And in I came to Cape Town last year, for the first time, and I didn’t know anybody came to WordPress meetups, because that’s my profession. And that has pretty much changed the course of my life since then, the person and what they did I wonder if they here today, his name is Jeffrey Pierce. And all he really did was last year. He just sent me a message saying, Hey, dude, if you ever want to chat about stuff, let me know. I’m around. That was all I needed for that day. And for the week, a year later, he sends another message. Your idea? very philosophical today. And those are two very small things. And that’s less than 20 words. And it is in a span of almost a full year, may 8 2013 and 2015 March. So there’s very little you need to do to help each other out. All we need to do is ask how are you and actually care for reply.

So because this is extremely personal, I don’t have the other mount mental wellness issues that I could actually talk about, purely and actually mean it. But I have one and I’ll focus on that one for this talk. But that does not make any of the others less important. And also, not everyone has these issues all the time and as intensely, but it doesn’t make a difference when you’re feeling it. So it doesn’t make one mental issue worse than another. They’re all the same. They’re all terrible to have terrible to live with and We all need people around us. So dev pressed.

Play onwards, obviously. And this is pretty much my story. I have depression. The three Hardest Words I’ve said in a long time.

And I’ve been aware and living with it for the last 10 years. And it’s not always bad, I have more days than I have terrible days. But for the last seven months, I’ve had more terrible days than okay days. And that last for seven months, and the last time that happened was five, six years ago, and that lasted for a year. So it’s a very difficult thing to go through. And the trouble is, it affects every part of your life, you can’t remove it from yourself, it is yourself. You’re not struggling depression, you have, it’s part of you. You can’t it’s that roommate, you just can’t evict essentially. So it’ll affect your relationships. it’ll affect how you interact with people, you will lose friends, sometimes if they don’t understand, especially if you don’t talk and tell them. And that has been one of the most important things I learned. On average, according to the mental health society, or the worldwide health organization as well, it takes up to 10 years for somebody with a mental health issue, to actually ask for help. And to actually get help, or to actually understand that this is what they have 10 years. And that’s purely because it is one of the most documented issues that we have in, in health and wellness. It’s the leading cause of suicide. Suicide is also one of the leading causes of death for people in our age group, as well. So since it’s the most documented issue that we have, in terms of understanding wellness of a person, is also one of the things we talk about the least. And that needs to change, we need to be able to talk more, we need to be able to open up ourselves to the people around us. We might think that, hey, this isn’t the right community to do. So this is professional. A lot of you here start off professional and you become friends how you get familiar with somebody, or you just understand that this person when he asks how I am, he wanted to know the truth, not that I’m fine. And it’s like an automatic response just to sit here I’m fine. I’m good, great. Having a nice day, how are you? So more people need to speak out. More people who have these issues, need to talk about it, that makes it okay for other people to talk about it. And the more people talking about it, the more awareness is going to be rounded, and the more help we can get. And then the more people more than 11% of the people in this room will have a mental illness of that 11% 80% will go will go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, or not get help at all. That needs to change 80% of people who has this issue, doesn’t know how to deal with it. I’m not talking about this. I’m talking about any mental health issue. So just start that off. That’s why I’m telling my story. That’s why I said those three words. Because if anyone’s going to start it, and if I’m going to preach it might as well do it. Giving back so a few years ago I think Matt Malin back at work, press wordcamp us spoke about five for the future. So he was talking mostly about giving back in whatever way you can 5% of most of your time, dedicated by putting back into WordPress if you love WordPress if you use it often. If it’s part of your life. Give 5% of your time to Give back and 5% isn’t much, it isn’t much. And Hugh’s talk was an amazing primer for this, because he showed all of the ways that you can currently give back. And I just want to say that there’s one more,

helping each other as a community. And helping yourself in investing in yourself, for 5%, as well will make a huge difference to the WordPress community. Because you can’t pour from an empty cup essentially. So if you’re running on empty, if you want to give 5%, where you’re going to get it from.

So my proposition today is that if we want to give back to the WordPress community, if we, as developers, business owners, we need to understand the people around us better, we need to understand ourselves better. And if you are so inclined, help the others that you know about, and help yourself if you care enough about yourself. And sometimes we don’t. So I propose that everyone who wants to today can help out during break, or during the next session. When you ask somebody how they are. Tell the truth. Tell them how you feel. Tell them how you actually are tell them that your morning was crap, but it’s getting better today. So for the future, invest in yourself, then give back. So we’ve all heard of hashtag WP drama. But I want to propose a different one, for this talk. And for today. And if you’re on Twitter, and if you if you socialize, WP hugs, give a virtual hug to somebody or start a trend, at least for the next day or so. And make it more aware to other people in the WordPress community that we are here together for each other by each other. And we can help each other. That’s what we’re here for. We say we’re here for the talks. But we must be here to get to know new people. Right? So if you’re on Twitter, if you have a phone today, I’ll highly recommend. And then now, for example, to do one of these. And let’s see how it goes. communities that thrive, there has been a lot of psychological studies on communities in general. And there are a lot of communities that have less mental wellness issues, less suicide rates, less depression issues. And they found that they are main three things that change that main three things that makes the difference between the lowest rates, and the highest rates of these issues in a community. And it is as a community to have a greater acceptance of failure within it. Sometimes, sometimes in the forums, sometimes when contributing to call, sometimes in person, sometimes with your colleagues. We don’t take failure. But we need to, we need to understand that everybody is going to fail sometimes. And it is the people who failed more often, more quickly, that are actually the ones that are learning the most faster. So the more we realize that, the better. Also a higher role for forgiveness and understanding. Sometimes, especially for example, if somebody has bipolar disorder, I have personal experience with knowing someone like that. And they have difficult days, some days, they’re absolutely amazing and want to give you a hug and talk about anything and talk about life and share with you. Other days. They would hope that you just leave them alone and you probably should. And it is those days that as people who know these people who interact with these people, forgive, don’t take it personally. They’re not doing it because of you. They’re doing it because of themselves and they don’t understand what’s going on. Most of the time, and they may not have the help they need. And you could help them by understanding more by forgiving more by not taking it personally so that the next day when they’re all right, when they not that person, but they remember yesterday, they don’t have to worry about coming to the office and senior and being like, dammit, what did I say yesterday, why was I like that I’m so sorry. We can do a with all of that, by having that. Then a culture system that honors intrinsic value over achievement, sometimes a lot of what you give to the world. In fact, for most of us, a lot of what we give back may not come with achievement points and award points or Achievement unlocked, for example, but we do provide value. Today, I hope that my value here would be that at least one life here today gets changed, I hope and a society and a community that values value over achievement is the third thing that is needed to curb the difference in these rates. This issue at its worst, for anybody who has it can lead to suicide. And this also isn’t something that’s spoken about more, but psychological studies show that if you’re a friend to somebody, if you know somebody who you may be worried about. Just talking about death on mortality, and bringing up thoughts of suicide in a conversation, I don’t know how you can do that, though, actually reduces the rates and risk of suicide in people. So by that logic, just talking about all of this, these issues, will help more people be aware of what they are actually going through. And for them to know that it’s okay not to be okay. And what they have is something that can be helped. And there are people that they can talk to people around them that care. And at its worst suicide is. Well, tomorrow actually, is world Suicide Prevention Day. So this is a good primer for that. And I hope all of you participate in awareness for tomorrow. And at its worst, this is an average statistic for around the world on the five main leading causes of death by age group. As you can see, for the age between 15 and 24. Suicide is the first leading cause of death. Age 25 to 44. Suicide is still the main cause of death, and up till the age of 60. What 64 is still in the top five. It’s the fifth leading cause of death. And we don’t talk about Yes. So today I hope that these are the things we are going to change and we want to change. We need to be okay. As a community as people not just other WordPress people, but your own family, your own friends, the people you meet, we need to be okay with listening to their stories. Caring about their stories. Listening is probably one of the most important things as a human being you can do for other human beings. tell your own story. People open up a lot more when they know that other people are opening up a lot more. So when you tell start time people stuff this time used to be the first I’ve done it today. And they’ll be around so if anyone wants to talk. I’m going to be eating lunch and finally removed stigma.


as a society, as a community, and as a profession, don’t talk about this, nearly enough, don’t share about this nearly enough. How many people here if they had an issue, we’ll be comfortable telling their colleagues about it 123 How many of you, if you had this issue would be okay with telling your boss about it.

That’s a key difference. For people in this room, okay with telling the people that they spent almost eight hours a day with what’s going on in their lives, was the deepest part of what’s happening to them. And that’s an extremely difficult thing to experience, that solitude, of knowing that there’s a whirlwind going on inside your head, that you can do almost nothing about at the moment, and your colleagues and your boss are relying on you to do something is difficult. So for the woman out there, for the men out there, and all of those in between.

We need to be there for each other, we need to care more. And we need we need each other. We as people need people, you need people, I need people, we need people. And actually should be a mantra

that say, everybody, I need people. You need people. We need people, we How many of you believe that. So let’s start talking about it. Let’s start removing the stigma around it. And you know, what’s the best outcome that that will do is that some of the people in this room who have or may have contemplated suicide or who are going through these things will get helped. Firstly, those that are not diagnosed, those that don’t know what they’re going through, will be able to understand that they can get help. That’s the other important thing. And most importantly, especially for me is that more people will come forward. So that scientists will have better sample sets of people to work with, and the treatments and the help. That will be available, we’ll improve it, more people have have been speaking about it in the last 45 years, treatments have improved. And there are less people being on the bottom asked and all that kind of stuff. And when we are actually getting help. There are days that are better days, because of the people I work with the people I’m around the friends I have. And as you can tell by what I showed you earlier, just one person over Twitter can change what you can do next. So if you want WP hugs for all. Thank you.

Does anyone have any questions we can open the floor for farmers for questions.

Unknown Speaker  29:13  

I think it’s amazing when you started just going to talk about how WordPress in the fact you’re able to write and sort of tell your story. But what I wanted to know from you and I kind of experienced this with somebody that either committed suicide is what is what is the possible What do you think is the possible negative effect in the fact that things like social media, make it easy to hide will make it easier to hide what’s actually going on? Because and the reason I say that is because this person the day before it happened was life was great. My life was wonderful. It was just it blindsided everybody.

Leo Gopal  29:48  

The biggest thing that happens when somebody commits suicide that we know is that everyone around them is surprised. He was always so happy. Yes. Data is fine. Today is not here. Social media for this does affect it a lot. We all share on social media, the highlight reels of our life, not actually what’s going on. We don’t share the truth, we only share the good stuff, or dinner. And people who are suffering from this, look at that. Everyone else that I’m friends with is having an amazing life. And I’m not because they judging their full life by your highlight reel. And we need to change that too.

Unknown Speaker  30:55  

Today, and especially as a man’s community, it’s not spoken about at all. And as a woman that post Natal depression, I think we get a lot of help as women in this society that we’re in, but for Madison.

Leo Gopal  31:15  

Thank you. Congratulations on being a mom.

Cool. Any other questions were there.

And if you just want to ask me in private, I’m around as well. Awesome. Thank you one more round of applause.

Transcribed by

About Leo Gopal

Leo Gopal is a writer of Code and Poetry, sometimes they are the same thing.

Leo Gopal has been part of the WordPress Community since he was a teenager (over a decade). Former Founder of WPHugs he is now part of the WP&UP team as a Mental Health Advisor. He is a Happiness Engineer with the awesome team at by day.

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