Mental health & tech

Mike Tougeron
Oct 10, 2020 · 4 min read

For a variety of reasons people in the US don’t like talking about mental health. There’s a fear that there will be negative reactions and impact from talking about it. From the simple “I’m stressed out today” to the complex “I’m feeling super depressed today” it is all something that we don’t talk about. I think that’s a load of BS and I would love to see it changed. Mental health is no different from a broken arm or a twisted knee. It’s all about your body’s overall health and there are ways in which a medical professional can help you deal with it or adapt to it. If there’s no stigma needing a pill for low blood pressure then there isn’t one for depression.

Okay, end-rant. :)

I suffer from depression, bipolar and ADD. My mental health issues were not officially diagnosed until I was in my late 20s but in hindsight they were there all my life. I remember having good days & bad days but I always associated them with being situational and related to something that recently happened. As an adult, I learned that the frequency of good & bad days (or multiple times a day) were a sign of being bipolar.

Frequently when I talk about my mental health in a public forum I get responses like:

  • Be careful what you say, it might come back & hurt you.
  • Are you sure you should tell people that?
  • Just don’t say anything about me when you talk about it.

But what makes it all worth it when I put my vulnerabilities out there, is when I also hear:

  • Thank you, it helped me realize that I can could get help too.
  • I wanted to let you know that I saw a doctor about it last week because of what you said.
  • Can I get your help today?

It also helps me remember that I’m not alone. It makes me feel good that I might have contributed to someone’s life and possibly even made it better.

What does this have to do with technology? Well, I thought I’d share some of the tech I’ve used over the years to help me manage. It may or may not help others but the more information that’s out there and the more mental health is discussed in general the better off we will all be.

RescueTime (referral link): I use RescueTime to help keep track of what I’m spending my time on at work.

A example RescueTime dashboard showing I spent time shopping and on social media
A example RescueTime dashboard showing I spent time shopping and on social media

Am I coding or am I visiting social media? Am I spending my time in meetings this week or did I work on something where I felt a sense of accomplishment? RescueTime’s reports help me get some good visibility into where I’ve been so that I can understand the why of where I’m at.

Fitbit: I use Fitbit to help keep track of how I’m sleeping.

My fitbit sleep dashboard
My fitbit sleep dashboard

A lot of people use Fitbit to track their steps & exercise but it also does a pretty good job of tracking sleep at night. I don’t sleep very well in general but some nights are worse than others. Knowing how well I slept the night before helps me better determine if I’m having a mood swing due to lack of sleep and should take a nap. Or am I cranky due to lack of sleep vs a fit of depression.

Alarm Clock: I have 3 alarms set each day for mental health.

example alarms I set to take my medicine & breaks throughout the day
example alarms I set to take my medicine & breaks throughout the day

My obsessive nature and ADD makes it easy for me to lose track of time. Using these basic alarms I remind myself to self-care and check-in on my current state of well-being.

Other recommendations: I haven’t personally used these tools (yet!) but they came highly recommended from people I trust & respect. The tools look useful so I’m sharing them too. The first is Mindfulness Coach from the VA and the other is Talkspace. If you use either of them let me know what you think.

Hopefully this will help someone feel more comfortable with themselves and feel like they’re not alone. Mental health is important and like anything else it takes care, feeding & attention to maintain a consistent level of health. The more we talk & share our challenges, successes and general state the better the world will be.

If you ever need to talk or want to know more about my experiences, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be there to listen.

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