Internet Activist Aaron Swartz's Suicide Prompts Tech Community to Talk About Depression

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SwartzThe January 11th suicide of Internet activist Aaron Swartz has attracted international attention and intensified the spotlight already focused on mental health awareness. Swartz’s death has sparked countless blogs and op-articles detailing his numerous contributions to the tech world while contemplating the factors that lead to his death.

Some of the articles, including this one by Dr. John Grohol of PyschCentral, suggest that the culture of the tech world could have played a role in his death. Dr. Grohol states that Swartz belonged to a “technology sub-culture that mostly doesn’t understand — or care much — about mental illness.”

Dr. Grohol’s assertion that the tech world’s culture of ignoring, denying, or not caring about mental illness may have contributed to Swartz’s death isn’t necessarily wrong, but I don’t think it is inclusive enough. Let’s be honest: can you name a single industry that treats mental illness any differently? Across all industries, throughout our society, and across the world, people are afraid of what it means to have a mental illness.

Swartz’s death has spurred leaders in the tech world to “stop being quiet” and start talking about depression. Christina Warren wrote on Mashable that “stigma doesn't go away until the population hears personal stories from the afflicted. History bears this out, time after time, with each stigmatized group. More stories means creating a culture where future Aarons know they can speak out about their suffering.” Her personal appeal for us to start talking about depression has been shared more than 4,000 times.

Ms. Warren, we salute your call to action and invite you to join our efforts. In 2012 we launched Strides Against Stigma, a walk-a-thon to raise public awareness of depressive disorders. The second annual Strides Against Stigma will take place on April 27, 2013 at Boston University, and all funds raised support free depression education programs. Together we can end the stigma of depressive disorders.

Register at www.StridesAgainstStigma.org.

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