A Culture of Denial

January 16, 2013

I read a very insightful article this morning about Aaron Swartz’s suicide and the culture of denial in the tech world. One of the key takeaways from the article is that there still exists a stigma around mental illness.

Stigma still exists in many parts of our society, and often found among people who don’t think twice about health problems. There are still many — too many — who believe mental illness is a “made up” problem and that people can just help themselves out of the problem if they only put their mind to it.

Certainly, no one would insist that you can simply will yourself to not have a broken leg. Or not be inflicted with hepatitis. Or whatever other physical ailment you might have. However, mental illness is treated differently.

I’ve heard people in our industry insist — unsolicitedly — that anyone can simply think away stress or depression or what-have-you with the right kind of attitude. The biggest problem with this reasoning is that it re-inforces the misinformed idea that it is someone’s fault for struggling with a mental disorder.

It’s not just a culture of denial — it’s a culture of blame.

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