The Information Technology Burnout Project, created by friends in the security community, addresses something most of us experience at one point or another: work-induced depression.
The website is only part of the project. Project members have also held panel discussions about job stress and burnout at various security conferences across the United States. During those discussions, people have been open about the depression, despair and hopelessness they’ve traveled through in the face of mounting job stress. We know that stress has led to suicide in the IT world. Aaron Swartz is just one of the latest examples.
When I started this blog, I worried about how I’d be perceived in the infosec community. By that point my need to rip the skeletons out of my closet overrode such concern, but I held my breath and sweated it for a few days. I didn’t expect the eventual response, though I probably should have.
My work community started opening up about their own struggles with depression, anxiety and the resulting addictions. These were and still are people that are tough as steel, which was actually comforting. If people like that could let cracks in their armor show, perhaps I wasn’t so crazy after all.
The work of breaking the stigmas around mental illness took on a more intense urgency for me, and here we are, more than three years later.
I’ve had my bouts of job burnout and all the depression and anxiety that goes with it, though most of it was before I started focusing on infosec. As an editor at a daily paper, I struggled to keep newsroom politics from getting to me. I tried to stay above all the backstabbing, criticism from upper management and side effects that came from working late-night hours. I failed, at least for a while, and conducted myself in ways I’m ashamed of to this day.
When I finally got out of the mainstream news business and landed in a much more supportive office environment, I remained on edge. On the surface I appeared calm, and the bosses were happy with the work I was doing. But inside I was dying, one traumatized molecule at a time.
I eventually found my way out of it. But when someone in my work circle is going through something similar, I can spot it from a mile away.
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who can.
I’m proud of the friends who started the Information Technology Burnout Project. They are breaking the stigma and, through the website, offer coping tools and inspirational stories that can and will make a difference.
One such friend noted last week that the project has lost some momentum since last year’s RSA Conference, mainly because everyone is increasingly busy with work projects. He’s hoping to rekindle the earlier momentum and asked for help.
Count me in, starting with this post.