All posts by Arjen Lentz

Mental Healthcare Support in Companies

To This Day project – addressing violence and bullying in schools, through a poem by Shane Koyczan.

Here’s one of the visualisations, with Shane’s spoken word:

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Geeks & Depression BlueHackers BoF at 2013

Geeks & Depression BlueHackers BoF Wed 8.30pm – it’s happening!

A number of people have asked the LCA organisers to do something on the topic of depression at the conference. It’s an important topic close to the heart of many LCA attendees. LCA and BlueHackers had a chat, and we decided to run a BlueHackers BoF on Wednesday evening from 8.30pm in MCC2 (large room).

Suggested agenda:

  1. intro by Arjen Lentz (
  2. up to a handful lightning talks (confirmed: Paul Fenwick, John Dalton, Sarah Sharp)
  3. general discussion (moderated)

There won’t be any taboo topics, however it is important to maintain a safe environment for everybody. A meeting like this is not therapy or a substitute for any form of professional help. It has however been found very beneficial to hear from others about their experiences and to discuss what tips and tricks work for them.

To facilitate all this, LCA has offered assistance for Arjen be in Canberra for the Wednesday, as he is unable to attend all of LCA.

BlueHackers has one key objective: to remind you that if you are a geek dealing with depression or a related disorder, you are not alone. Depression is fairly prolific in the geek community, and it is important that we don’t hide the subject away. Talking about it is one of the most positive and helpful things we can do for each other.

Email:  l i f e (at) b l u e h a c k e r s (dot) o r g  if you have any questions or want to tell us you’re coming along (but you’re most welcome regardless!) – please also help spread the word through any medium, to ensure that everyone knows the event is happening.

At the event, you’re welcome to sit quietly in the back if you prefer. Some people are comfortable talking in public on this, others are not. Your mere presence will already be positive for other attendees, and possibly for you too.

Naturally, if you want to help with this, have ideas, would like to do one of the lightning talks, or anything else related, write to the above email address. Thanks!

Arjen Lentz (BlueHackers) & Lana Brindley (LCA 2013 Team)

Mitch Altman – Geeks and Depression Panel at 28c3

Mitch Altman and others spoke at a panel session on Geeks & Depression at 28c3 (the 28th congress of the Chaos Computer Club in Germany) in 2011 after the passing of Ilya Zhitomirskiy (co-founder of the Diaspora project). I think the video (40 minutes) is worth watching, the speakers touch on a lot of important points.

On Cure Evangelism

Jacinta wrote this awesome post and allowed me to reprint (most of) it for you as I think this very relevant on BlueHackers. What you read here is people’s own personal experience, and ideas. We know from feedback that this is appreciated and found helpful. But it is very important to remember that what works for one person may not be what another person needs – for whatever reason. So what you pick up here is possible ideas, not “the right way”. Ok, on to Jacinta’s post.

Sometimes people write or talk about their health issues. You get a tiny snapshot into what’s going on, and […] that’s probably not going to be enough for you to know what they’ve tried, rejected, talked with their doctors about etc.

Here are some articles writing by the amazing S E Smith about cure evangelism.

“You may, in fact, have tried a variety of treatments. Perhaps you tried several different medications for your depression. You tried acupuncture and meditation and herbs. You made some dietary adjustments. You found, ultimately, that some of these things worked for you and some of them did not. You made a conscious choice about which treatments you wanted to continue, and which ones you did not, and you’re managing your depression in a way that works for you, that suits your needs, that allows you to function.

“And then someone feels the need to come along and say ‘oh, you have [condition]? Have you tried…’”

also the original piece:

Please don’t cure evangelise. […] There’s some ideas in the articles on how (and when) you can share your experiences but in general, if you respect the person you’re talking to, respect that they’re already making the best health choices they can.

Ask “do you have this under control?” or “Do you want a recommendation for a <medical professional>?” Not “You should see <doctor>“.

Try saying “If none of that works, let me know, because I have some ideas that might be helpful” rather than “Have you tried X, Y, or Z? No? You should!“.

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RIP Andre Hedrick: The engineer who kept the PC open

Rather belated (with apologies). The second link provides additional insight as to why Andre and his story is relevant to BlueHackers. Good engineers sometimes carry difficult burdens.

Auckland event Sat 1 Sep 2012: Mental Illness, and What You Need to Know!

Jarno is organising an event in Auckland NZ on Saturday September 1st: Event: Mental Illness, and What You Need to Know! which will cover diet, motivation and other relevant aspects of dealing with stuff.

Black Dog Ride Australia 2012

Commencing on August 18, riders from all around Australia are heading to the Red Centre to raise community awareness of depression and suicide prevention.

Black Dog Ride began as one man’s personal quest to complete a solo motorbike trip around Australia to raise community awareness of depression. In Australia, each year around 1,000,000 adults and 100,000 young people live with depression. More than 50% will not seek treatment. Join Steve as he continues his mission.

As I understand from motorbike riders who are going to do this trip (I don’t ride), there’s a fairly large overlap between riders and people working in IT, so they figured it’d be a good idea to give the Black Dog Ride a mention via BlueHackers. Hereby!

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BlueHackers donations – update

Some of you may have noticed that the donate page currently doesn’t actually work, the PayPal gateway refuses to accept. This is because PayPal has (again) limited our access, pending their verification process.

It all started a few years back when we created the PayPal account and showed it as a non-profit organisation. We know there’s no profit objective, but there wasn’t an option for it not being an organisation. When PayPal asked for clarification, we sorted it out by being adopted by the Open Source Developers Club, Inc (“owner” of the Open Source Developers’ Conference, OSDC) which is a registered not-for-profit organisation itself.

That made things ok for a while, but since PayPal is increasingly subject to legislation for financial institutions (mind you, I reckon that’s a good thing! operating like a bank while pretending that you’re not has issues) they now have more stringent identity verification processes, just like other banks. The difference is that while regular banks use a piece of paper and a human you can talk with, the PayPal process is automated. Unfortunately, their processes don’t take all permutations of Australian business and organisation types into account, and thus I have to navigate through the options as best I can, while being fully aware that it’s not absolutely right no matter what option I select. Of course, a human will look at the info provided, so I’m hopeful it’ll be sorted soon.

BlueHackers doesn’t do much with money… mainly we fund the production of the little stickers, and people make donations covering those costs. There are a few other ideas (serving the purpose of BlueHackers, not specifically aimed at raising funds) that we’ll be able to look at again once the PayPal verification process has been completed.

Finally, you may ask why we use PayPal at all. While not perfect in many ways, they do offer a service that we haven’t as yet been able to find elsewhere. Accepting credit cards through other means incurs significant setup and running costs, whereas the PayPal fees only affect payments and are very small (2.4%) considering the very low volume. A bank would typically charge 4% in such a scenario, with fixed monthly costs added also. That would eat up all our funds in overhead and thus make the whole exercise pointless.

Brand Substitutes

Pharmacists tend to ask if a substitute or generic brand is ok for a prescription. While I’m generally for that as it tends to save money, I’d recommend against saying yes when it comes to depression-related medication. As you know, getting the dosage right is tricky enough. From my past personal experience, substitutes didn’t work or at least worked differently, thus messing with my head – so basically, once you get to something that works for you (whichever brand that might be), don’t risk messing with it for the sake of saving a few dollars. You can also ask your doctor to put a tick in the “no substitutes” box on the prescription, then the pharmacist won’t even go there.

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