Product Hunt is using its megaphone to tackle startup depression

It’s no secret that Product Hunt is the Pied Piper of startup land. Founders would probably follow the company anywhere, since the so-called Reddit for new apps and gadgets gives them exposure to media, investors and potential users.

Now, Product Hunt is using this influence for a social cause: Mental health. It’s teamed up with fellow Y Combinator graduate 7 Cups of Tea to offer a series of seminars on depression and anxiety led by YC’s Jessica Livingston, Tech Stars’ Brad Feld and Reboot.io‘s Jerry Colonna. It’s also urging founders and members of the startup community to use 7 Cups of Tea’s network of volunteer listeners.

“We’re lending the Product Hunt name to help get the word out,” Product Hunt staffer and early employee Erik Torenberg told me. “After the happy hour we realized we have a voice in tech and we can speak about things that matter to us.” The company doesn’t want to stray too far from its original mission of encouraging people to make things, but this endeavor fits with that goal.

In a blog post announcing the partnership, Torenberg explained why he thinks mental health is a crucial issue for makers, founders and people in the startup community:

Startups can be particularly lonely because there’s a huge cognitive dissonance?…We pretend to be killing it all the time, so we don’t talk about how we’re struggling. Because we don’t talk about how we’re struggling, we don’t know that other people are struggling, too.

7 Cups of Tea, Product Hunt’s partner, is a company that matches trained listeners with people who want to talk to someone. It’s a free service for now, making it a more accessible form of therapy, albeit sometimes with less qualified listeners. People who call into 7 Cups of Tea with serious, immediate issues are escalated to professional hotlines. Its “startups” division is the company’s first thematic category, complete with prerecorded video lessons.

Product Hunt and 7 Cups of Tea aren’t the only ones trying to discuss entrepreneurial mental health. Brad Feld has been writing about it on and off for years now and YC’s Sam Altman recently penned a blog post about depression and anxiety. There’s a subtle shift towards normalizing the discussion of these issues in the tech industry.

“We want a lasting community of people who think this is important,” Torenberg said, when asked about his hope for the program. “A lot of people deal with this.”

Depression linked to office injustices, not work load

Recent research shows that stress and depression related to work are primarily related to a sense of injustice and inequality in the workplace, not high workload.

Matias Brødsgaard Grynderup, a psychologist at Aarhus University and one of the researchers, said,

We may have a tendency to associate depression and stress with work pressure and workload; however, our study shows that the workload actually has no effect on workplace depression. This suggests that the risk of workplace depression cannot be minimised by changing the workload. […] When high levels of work pressure and depression appear to be linked in people’s consciousness, it is not because a heavy workload increases the risk of depression. Or that’s not what we found in our study. Instead, depression can make work assignments appear insurmountable, even though the depression was not caused by the workload.

The study was based on questionnaires from 4,500 public employees in  Denmark, and the researchers also interviewed most to determine who was suffering from clinical depression. What they determined is a strong correlation with a sense of workplace injustice — people being treated unfairly — and a lack of clarity about management objectives and organizational dynamics.

One of the most critical aspects of turning down the pressures in the workplace if making as much as possible transparent. In the most progressive companies, that can include information about pay scales, bonuses, performance reviews, and so on. The convenient fiction about keeping such matters private is that employees don’t want that information shared, but the dirty secret is that it allows inequity to go unexamined. For example, in many industries women continue to be paid less for doing equivalent work as men, and this is likely to persist if management opts to conceal it. A great deal of what goes on in business as being ‘the way things are done, here’ can be better cast as ‘the way things are done to people, here’.

 

Vid-Biz: Comcast-NBC, Sony, Blockbuster

Zucker Outlines Comcast/NBCU Transition Team; the “Operational Transition Team” will be led by Salil Mehta, NBCU’s president of business operations, strategy and development, and Joe Donnelly, CFO of Comcast’s programming group. (Multichannel News)

Sony to Use RealD Technology in 3-D TV Sets in 2010; the maker of Bravia televisions will use technology from RealD to make 3D-capable TV sets starting next year. (Bloomberg)

Blockbuster Launches iPhone App; the new app allows customers to locate the nearest stores and check on the in-stock status of certain titles, while also enabling customers to build and manage their list of online-rental requests. (Video Business)

Blu-ray Disc Association Completes 3-D Spec; the long-anticipated spec calls for every 3-D Blu-ray software/hardware product to work with any compatible 3-D display, regardless of whether it uses LCD, plasma or other technology. (Video Business)

Netflix Sued For Revealing Private Info; the same lawyer who brought a lawsuit over Blockbuster sharing data with Facebook has sued Netflix over sharing user data for its $1 million ratings contest. (TechDirt)

Bambuser’s Video Streaming iPhone App Hits the App Store; mobile streaming startup’s live streaming iPhone application was approved by Apple days after Ustream’s app was given the green light. (TechCrunch)

Pope Reaches Out to Cyber Youth With YouTube, Podcasts; Pope Benedict XVI is on YouTube, has a MySpace playlist, will podcast his midnight Christmas Mass, and will have a webcam broadcasting appearances from his apartment window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. (Bloomberg)

Showtime Picks Episodic for MMA Initiative; Showtime Sports selected Episodic to power the live online video initiative STRIKEFORCE: All Access. (TVover.net)

Watch The Buzz On Bitly.TV; Url shortener is aggregating the most popular videos shared through its service. (TechCrunch)

What If It’s Worse Than We Think?

[qi:115] When the financial crisis reached full bloom last fall, it took many technology companies some time before they were able to appreciate the impact it would have on them. This year, we’re seeing the fallout in the form big losses or shrunken profits, layoffs and other signs of retrenchment.

Alongside the pain, however, there’s a sense of optimism — that the worst is over and the tech industry just has to muddle through until the economy recovers. But the worst may not, in fact, be over; Financial Meltdown 2.0 might be lurking around the corner to deliver a second, possibly harsher blow. Read More about What If It’s Worse Than We Think?

What If the Recession Does Turn Into a Depression?

It’s far from certain — it’s even a fairly remote possibility — but the possibility of an economic depression is being discussed more and more these days. As is to be expected, the discussion tends to be centered around how much of what we’re used to having could be destroyed. As worthwhile as it is to brace for the damage an economic depression could wreak, this is Thanksgiving weekend — a time to reflect on what we do have, and what opportunities we see ahead. Not “opportunities” as in exploiting those in need during hard times, but as in adapting to and serving changing needs. Read More about What If the Recession Does Turn Into a Depression?