OSMI Fundraiser 2016: Great Success!


Our second annual fundraiser closed at midnight on Saturday the 26th of June, and once again we were blown away by the response from the tech community.


From those who wanted to get on the Wall of Awesome, right up to Like Uber for Mental Health, every donation, big or small is equally valued (except that some are more equally valued than others).

We raised the initial $10k in an astounding 64 hours and ended up creating a $15k stretch goal that was also smashed through, ending up raising a staggering $21,396 in 30 days. Last year’s fundraiser was spectacular, raising around $15k over a 9 month period, so to better that by such a margin is not only superb but truly humbling.

Because of your generosity, OSMI will be able to become a legitimate not-for-profit organisation that gives us all sorts of benefits for keeping the group running in the long term. We’ll also be producing dead-tree copies of our handbooks and creating a series of online videos; all because of your awesomeness.

148 people will be receiving 73 sticker packs, 25 t-shirts, and 12 hoodies. 22 people will be cementing their place on the Wall of Awesomeness, joining such immense names as Daniel Cousineau and Ben Ramsey. Packs of cool OSMI stickers will be sent out to 36 lucky recipients, to be stuck who knows where (probably on the front of a laptop)? New company logos (of various sizes) will be added to our promotional materials, just itching to drive new business to those companies that proudly support Open Sourcing Mental Illness.

Here, in all its majesty, is the final table of who-bought-what-and-stuff:

Name Number Claimed Amount Total Raised
Your name on Wall of Awesome 22 $10 $220
5-Pack of OSMI Stickers 36 $25 $933
OSMI T-Shirt & 5-pack Stickers 25 $100 $2540
OSMI Hoodie & 5-pack sticker 12 $150 $1817
1-hour live video consultation 0 $300 $0
Amaze-level supporter 1 $750 $750
Mega-level supporter 2 $1500 $3000
Ultra-level supporter 1 $3500 $3500
Like Uber for Mental Health 1 $5000 $5000

In case you can’t tell, I’m building to a crescendo of joy and excitement, but before we can get there, we need to cover the fact that inevitably there will be people who have missed out. Sadly, some people, the type of individuals who live by the motto “don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow” will have missed the closing deadline, and will not be taking shipment of an amazing OSMI hoodie. Not only will those people be very disappointed, but they will also be chilly when in conference centres that are too aggressive with the air-conditioning.

We feel sorry for those people. Your only crime was one of loitering. So for these few tardy folks, we offer you another chance. If you head over to https://osmihelp.org/donate, for a limited time only, you can still make a donation and receive your perk. There is no need to thank us.

The dust is still settling, it’s difficult at this moment to take stock of what has happened. All we know currently is that by this time next year, we hope that OSMI will be a fully formed and operational not-for-profit organisation. We know that Ed will have been able to continue attending events all over the place, spreading the word and genuinely helping people to change their lives. For this, we really only have one thing that we can say.

Thank you.

Gary Hockin

How Open Sourcing Mental Illness Can Make Your Company More Productive

"OSMI Logo"

I started a campaigning 2013 called Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI) to change how the tech industry deals with mental health. Right now I’m talking to folks at tech companies to see if they would be willing to provide financial support during our annual fundraiser. Here’s some reasons why this should matter to your org, and how supporting OSMI benefits you:

Why Support Mental Wellness in Tech?

  1. One in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year (National Alliance on Mental Health, 2013).

  2. In the tech industry, 50% of individuals have sought treatment for mental illness, according to one study (Finkler, 2015).

  3. Only 26% of those working in tech are aware of their company’s mental health resources and how to seek help (Finkler, 2015)

5 Ways Support for OSMI Benefits Your Organization

  1. We use your financial support to fund the development of resources aimed at creating workplaces that promote mental wellness. This includes the OSMI Handbooks we released in May 2016, as well as upcoming video workshops (produced if we can reach $20k in our 2016 fundraiser). Employees in a culture of mental wellness are demonstrably happier, more productive, and more likely to stay with their employer.

  2. Your employees will know their well-being is a priority to your organization – the kind of organization people want to work for.

  3. Potential employees will want to work for your organization if they know you take their health – physical and mental – seriously.

  4. We will work directly with your organization to answer questions and offer advice as much as possible. Direct feedback on application of our resources is extremely useful to improving them, and knowing what problems need solutions in the modern tech workplace. We also have strong relationships with consultants who specialize in organizational psychology and wellness programs.

  5. We can conduct employee surveys based on our Mental Health in Tech surveys to measure how well your employees are being served by current mental wellness policies, and where resources should be applied.

Please consider making a financial contribution to our 2016 fundraiser:

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Ed Finkler
Founder, Open Sourcing Mental Illness


National Alliance on Mental Health. (2013, March). Mental illness facts and numbers.

Finkler, E., (retrieved 2015, April). “OSMI Mental Health in Tech Survey”

World Health Organization. (2005). Mental health policies and programs in the workplace.

The Tools to Change Our Lives and Our Industry


I started talking about mental health in tech publicly on /dev/hell in 2012, when Chris Hartjes let me ramble for over an hour about what it has been like to be a developer with mental health issues. That is what started me down the path of speaking at conferences about the issues I face, and the ones we all face, with a talk called “Open Sourcing Mental Illness.”

Every time I gave the talk, people came up to me and told me how significant it was that someone was telling their story openly. They still do, over 3 years after I started, and after nearly 30 different versions of the talk given all across the US.

As it evolved, I started dedicating less time to me, and more to what we knew about the impact of mental disorders in society, and specifically about the tech industry. We know quite a bit about the former, and we know almost nothing about the latter. So I started the Mental Health in Tech Survey in 2014. About 1100 respondents later, we learned that:

  1. People who work in tech don’t feel safe to discuss mental health issues in the workplace
  2. People who suffer from mental health issues are afraid they will not be hired or lose their job if they talk about it
  3. Few people working in tech know what options they have to seek help for mental health issues
  4. Very few tech workplaces put any effort into promoting mental wellness, despite the demonstrable advantages of doing so

I wanted to change that. I also knew I couldn’t do it by myself, because I don’t have the professional background in either mental health or organizational psychology. I could spout off a bunch of opinions about the matters, but I didn’t trust that I’d give good advice that would actually affect change.

Thankfully I met two amazing people: Jennifer Akullian and Johanna Wu. Jennifer has a PhD in Psychology, Johanna has one in Organizational Psychology, and they both wanted to help me. I couldn’t believe my luck.

I brought them the idea of creating a document that contained real, actionable information about how to create a workplace that encourages and supports mental wellness. A great idea, I thought, and one I felt entirely incapable of executing. Thankfully, they felt differently.

Jennifer did the primary writing and research on three documents:

  1. Guidelines for Mental Health in the Workplace, which assists companies with changing their culture to support mental wellness,
  2. Guidelines for Execuctives and HR Professionals, and
  3. Guidelines for Employees, both of which focus on applying the Americans with Disability Act to mental health in the workplace.

Johanna reviewed the work and added her bits, and she is also working on additional content to complement what we have already created.

We released them on Tuesday, May 3rd, for the start of Mental Heath Awareness Week. They’re all free and CC-licensed.

Finally, we have handbooks that tech companies and their employees can use to change their culture and know their rights and obligations. Nothing like this has been available for the tech community until now. I couldn’t feel luckier or be prouder of the work we’ve done.

I have to thank all the donors who participated in our 2015 Indiegogo campaign, or have provided other funds or donated time to support OSMI work. We have a team of 10 people helping out in all sorts of ways. It’s turned into something much bigger than I could ever have imagined.

Thank you for believing that this matters. Thank you for trusting me to keep fighting. Thank you for standing by my side in that fight.

Thank you.

Open Sourcing Mental Illness Updates

Young men and women working on writing for publications at Camp Wel-Met, 1948

Here’s the latest, from a post I made to the mailing list (which you should definitely sign up for):

We released the 2016 Mental Health in Tech Survey

On Monday (March 14) I put up a new version of the survey I did in 2014 about mental health in the tech workplace. I have used the numbers from the 2014 survey a lot in my talks, and I wanted to get newer data. I also wanted to get more information about the kinds of issues that people working in tech are dealing with. I got a lot of help on this, especially from Matthew and Ayumi Bennett, Elizabeth Naramore, Jennifer Akullian Avery, Christina Keelan, and Johanna Wu.

Take the survey now!

I’ve spoken a ton

@ayumibennett on Twitter

Since June 21, 2015, when the main 2015 funding campaign ended, I have spoken at 9 conferences I wouldn’t have attended without your support. They include:

  • Open Source Bridge
  • Laracon US
  • Northeast PHP Conference
  • DevWorkshop Conference
  • Connect-JS
  • True North PHP
  • Nodevember
  • SkiPHP

Watch these talks now!

I also attended OSCON, and did a Birds of a Feather session.

Some of these conferences covered travel expenses, and some did not. Even when they did, meals and other expenses were covered by donated funds.

In the upcoming months:

  • In April I will be speaking at Kalamazoo X in Kalamazoo, MI and The Combine in Bloomington, IN.
  • May will bring Minneapolis Wordcamp in Minneapolis, MN and EmpireJS in New York, NY.
  • June is still a little up in the air, but I’ve been accepted to Yet Another Perl Conference-North America in Orlando, FL, and I hope to re-appear at Open Source Bridge in Portland, OR.
  • In July I expect to speak at PyOhio in Columbus, OH.

I’ve submitted to a few other conferences, and I’ll announce them when I hear acceptances.

I was interviewed on Microsoft’s Channel 9 blog

This just happened a couple weeks ago, thanks to the awesomest guy in the world Josh Holmes. We were working with his team in Seattle for work, and he asked if I’d be interested in doing this video interview. My hair is a disaster, but the whole setup was pretty cool. Josh has been talking a lot about living with ADHD lately, which is super cool.

We have a bunch of new volunteers

Now there are 6 people helping me in various ways with OSMI. This is really cool and kind of weird, because I’m very used to just doing most things myself and having total control over them. However, folks kept asking to help, and it seemed like a lot more neat stuff could be done if I let them. So, moving forward, I think we will be able to reach more people and affect more change with their help.

It’s important to mention that my wife Nicole has been helping me this whole time in a ton of ways, both directly and indirectly. There’s no way I could do any of this without her.

We launched a new web site at OSMIhelp.org

Fancy, responsive, SSL, has my face all over it: OSMIhelp.org. We also moved the blog to blog.osmihelp.org.

We’ve worked a ton on documentation

It’s not done, which I’m bummed about, but we have made a bunch of progress. Jennifer Akullian Avery and Johanna Wu have volunteered a bunch of time and effort to put together documentation on applying the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) to mental health in the workplace, both for employers and employees. This document is very close – we just want to get an attorney to review it to make sure we aren’t saying anything ridiculous. We also have done good preliminary work on guidelines for making a workplace supportive of mental wellness. We need to put more time into writing detailed examples, though, which has been a struggle.

I’ve spoken at companies

Late in 2015 I had the opportunity to speak at Branding Brand in Pittsburgh, PA and another tech company in West Lafayette, IN (where I live). The really cool thing about these opportunities is that I was able to speak directly about specific workplace issues with employees and management. I got great feedback on this, and I hope we can keep doing it in the future.

I bought a video camera

This has worked out well for recording talks – better than my iPhone was doing.

I took a new job, and they’re amazingly supportive

I now am Head of Developer Culture and Lead Developer at Graph Story. The team there has been incredible, accommodating the time I’ve needed to speak at conferences, and even presenting me with opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise: they asked me to use their sponsor talk slot at CodeMash in January 2016 to give my OSMI talk. This was a great chance to reach new communities, and it wouldn’t have happened if Graph Story didn’t feel strongly about what I’m doing.

That TedXLafayette Talk finally got published

You can watch it here.

We made some t-shirts, forgot to send some, and then made more

@walkah on Twitter

T-shirts were the most popular reward for donations, and also the one I screwed up the most. We had about 6 people who didn’t get theirs, because I wasn’t diligent about tracking it. To address the issue I had a 72-shirt run printed early this year, which includes women’s cuts. I’ll use the shirts we still have (which is most of them) in the next fundraiser.

It costs a lot to send a t-shirt to Europe.

We will do another fundraiser soon

In late April or May I will kick-off a new fundraiser for 2016. Funds from the 2015 fundraisers have been depleted, so at this point I’m just using personal funds to cover travel. This hasn’t been a huge problem, but will be a bigger issue when I need to fly to more conferences this summer. We’ll also use funds to compensate those who give their time to do work for OSMI, which lets us do way more. We can’t pay them what their worth, but it does help.

When the new fundraiser is ready to go, I’ll announce it various ways. I’ll also close the 2015 fundraiser to ongoing donations.

That’s what I can remember at the moment – I’m surely forgetting things. OSMI has kept growing beyond what I thought was possible, and has pushed me to grow personally in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. The support of my family, friends, and members of the tech community means more to me than I can say. We are making a real, positive difference in people’s lives, one person at a time. Thank you so much for believing in what we are doing.

Who I Am, and Who I Need To Be

I wrote this on Twitter on September 23, 2015. I thought it would be less ephemeral if I collected the pieces here.

When I started junior high, I switched from public school to the local Catholic school. Parents felt it was a better education + Catholic.

I didn’t know anyone in that school, and I was very scared to switch. I dreaded it every day as summer wound down.

When I started at the school, no one tried to say hi. No one helped me. Teachers or students. I was terrified.

I remember being in a big gymnasium, sitting with all the other students, but by myself. They called people for band.

I played saxophone but was too scared to go. I just sat there. No one told me what to do. I was so afraid of doing the wrong thing.

I remember later following a few kids to class because I didn’t know my way around, & they turned around and told me to stop following them

I still was friends with people at my old public school. I remember inviting 3 or 4 over one night to hang out and stuff. I had lots of fun

It felt really good that they were still my friends. Then a couple weeks later another friend told me they were making fun of me.

They thought I was behaving stupidly when they came over and made fun of me to each other when I wasn’t there.

I don’t think I’ve ever really trusted people since then. I expect to get screwed over. That they’ll betray me behind my back.

In the new school, I had “friends” I guess, but they also turned their backs on me when I became an outcast. No one stood up for me.

No teachers ever intervened. No one did anything. And I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it, ever.

And for the rest of my life I’ve believed that there is something wrong with me. I’ve believed that things will always go bad.

That I am, despite everything to the contrary, alone.

This is what I have to conquer to be happy. I have to not be that 13 year old kid, suffering in silence, dreading each day at school.

If I can’t do that, I won’t ever be free of it. And I am so sick of feeling this way. Of how it suffocates my hope and faith in people.

How it tells me I’m worthless and stupid, and leaves me alone and crying in my car, as a 40 year old man.

I have to like myself. And I haven’t liked myself since I was 12.

I wrote all this for myself, to remember what I’m trying to do, but also so other people can hear about it and know they aren’t alone.

So, on the third day of 7th grade, I decided to try out for football. I had played softball for many years and was pretty good at it.

The athletic requirements of football were quite different, though. I started crying because I couldn’t do the pushups and situps.

Then we had to run laps around a big field, and I tried my best, but I was just defeated. I couldn’t do it. I sat down and cried.

One of the kids was able to get me up and I ran in with him, finally. But that was it. I quit. I was incapable of doing it.

Kids were so cruel. Nothing was worse than quitting at athletics. They’d call me pussy and wimp to my face. No one defended me, ever.

Why was I changing my clothes in a locker room full of strangers? What the hell was going on? It was terrifying.

In 8th grade I went out for basketball, and played one preseason game. Had no idea what I was doing. Eventually I was kicked off the team because I started stealing stuff out of other kids’ lockers. I was acting out, doing destructive shit, to fit in. To have some power.

I tried out for wrestling, god help me, later in 8th grade. Again, no idea what I was doing. I was so not in shape for this stuff.

My mom bought me wrestling shoes, and I remember her saying that I couldn’t quit if she bought them for me.

Eventually I told my mom I was kicked off because my grades were too bad. I told the coach my mom wouldn’t let me be on the team bc grades.

I remember being alone at night in the den, and thinking about dropping a piece of exercise equipment on myself to break my leg.

That way I would have an excuse no one could deny to quit.

There was a kid in our class who, Matt K., who was 16 (in 8th grade). Really troubled. Got in a lot of fights.

He and I would talk, and I thought I was his friend. we all kind of thought he was cool in a scary way because he talked about tough stuff

I was so fucked up by all this stuff that I started paying him to beat up people. I would give him a name & some kind of money of video game

Of course, other kids caught on to this quickly and paid him to beat me up. I remember him beating on me in the corner of the blacktop.

It was out of the view of the supervisory types, so nobody did anything. Eventually because I wouldn’t fight back he stopped.

But I kept hearing he was waiting to beat me up when I got off the bus. I didn’t go back to school the next day. Faked being sick for a week

I would stay up as late as I could, watching TV on the couch in the living room, because I didn’t want the next day to come.

Finally I decided I couldn’t go back. I made a plan to run away. I packed a duffel bag with clothes and stuff and a knife in it.

It was early in the morning and I was about to leave, and I heard my parents getting up. I hid behind a big chair in the living room

I could hear them go to my room to wake me up, and then worry in their voice, because they couldn’t find me.

They were starting to look all over the house, becoming more frantic. Finally I came out. I told them what I’d planned to do.

They decided I shouldn’t go to school and we’d try to figure out what to do. They called my therapist, who I’d been seeing a cpl months

She said she thought I should go into an inpatient clinic. We figured out that the closest one was an hour away in Michigan City.

They dropped me off there at 2am. I was there for two months. I never went back to the school. Teachers agreed to just pass me.

Saw a lot of shit in that hospital. Some stuff was good, some was pretty awful. Lots of things I won’t ever forget.

But one thing I’ll say is that for the first time in a couple years (long time for a kid), someone actually stood up for me there.

This 13yo punk rock kid named Dennis. We would talk late at night, and he’d tell me crazy stories about when he did heroin & shit like that

And one time he said “Ed, you’re cool. I mean, you’re a nerd, but you’re cool.” That was the best thing that happened to me that whole time.

Thing is, I need to be able to tell myself that and believe it. I really haven’t, since I was 13 years old. It’s fucked with me for 27 years

I am not that kid anymore. I’m strong and good and not a failure. If I can’t tell myself that & believe it, doesn’t matter what anyone says

I’ve carried this shit around in my gut my whole life, because I thought it was who I was. But I was wrong, and I need to let it go.

If it takes me saying “I am a good person” out loud a million times, I’m doing it, because I’m not going to let it control me anymore.

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