TruePath comments on A mental health resource for EA community - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: TruePath 11 May 2017 07:59:50AM 2 points [-]

Before I should admit my bias here. I have a pet peeve about posts about mental illness like this. When I suffered from depression and my friend killed himself over it there was nothing that pissed me off more than people passing on the same useless facts and advice to get help (as if that magically made it betteR) with the self-congratulatory attitude that they had done something about the problem and could move on. So what follows may be a result of unjust irritation/anger but I do really believe that it causes harm when we past on truisms like that and think of ourselves as helping...either by making those suffering feel like failures/hopeless/misunderstood (just get help and it's all good) or causing us to believe we've done our part. Maybe this is just irrational bias I don't know.


While I like the motivation I worry that this article does more to make us feel better that 'something is being done' than it does anything for EA community members with these problems. Indeed, I worry that sharing what amounts to fairly obvious truisms that any google search would reveal actually saps our limited moral energy/consideration for those with mental illness (ohh good we've done our part).

Now I'm sure the poster would defend this piece by saying well maybe most EA people with these afflictions won't get any new information from this but some might not and it's good to inform them. Yes, if informing them were cost free it would. However, there is still a cost in terms of attention, time, pushing readers away from other issues. Indeed, unless you honestly believe that information about every mental illness ought to be posted on every blog around the world it seems we ought to analyze how likely this content on this site is to be useful. I doubt EA members suffer these diseases at a much greater rate than the population in general while I suspect they are informed about these issues at a much greater rate making this perhaps the least effect place to advertise this information.

I don't mean to downplay these diseases. They are serious problems and to the extent there is something we can do with a high benefit/cost ratio we should. So maybe a post identifying media that is particularly likely to serve afflicted individuals who would benefit from this and urging readers to submit this information would be helpful.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 17 May 2017 07:39:08PM *  1 point [-]

I did question whether this was on-topic enough to be a good fit for this forum. (I don't think awareness about every health issue that affects EAs would be a good use of the space, even if it affects a higher proportion than these problems.)

I do think these problems can be unusually and spectacularly destructive when unchecked, and often even when much effort has been made. I also think most people don't have a good concept of how to recognize these conditions or even what to google; I certainly wouldn't have before getting training as a social worker.

I definitely don't want us to congratulate ourselves for having dealt with these problems, because there have been cases when people in this community have needed help here and not gotten enough. I wrote this in the hope that it will tip the balance in some future crisis toward people having the knowledge they need, not so that we can check this off our list as a solved problem. These are really hard problems to deal with, both for people who have them and for people trying to help, and that's exactly why I wanted a resource available.

I'm so sorry about your friend. This kind of information definitely isn't fail-safe, but I think it's the best we have.