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WordPress isn’t just about websites and code. It’s a true community comprised of thousands of wonderful people. And as a community made of humans, the WordPress community experiences issues that go beyond source code, plugins, and themes.
One such issue that’s starting to get talked about more often is mental health. People like Cory Miller, Michele Butcher, Leo Gopal, and others have presented talks about mental health at recent WordPress events.
But despite the fact that some people are starting to talk about it, mental health still doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. Leo Gopal wants to help change that, which is why he launched the WPHugs project.
Why Mental Health Deserves More Attention In The WordPress Community
On our blog, B.J. recently wrote a post about mental care for developers and web designers.
Mental self-care is, of course, something that everyone needs – not just web developers and designers.
And while many of B.J.’s tips are actually good for anyone, that developer framing still is important because so many web professionals lead relatively isolated lives, at least compared to people who work more “traditional” jobs.
Many of us are independent and work from home or other “non-office areas”. And while that freedom is certainly nice – don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world – it does, or it can lead to comparatively isolated life.
I’m not saying you won’t find office workers who feel isolated and location-independent workers with strong communication networks…I’m just saying that it’s easier for our work to feel isolating.
That isolation can make mental health – a topic that’s already difficult for many to talk about – even harder to discuss because, even if we did want to talk about it, there might not be anybody to talk with.
We Need To Talk More
Tell me if this has happened to you – because it was my life for a while:
It’s 2 pm on a workday. I’d been working since 9 am. In all that time…I hadn’t spoken or typed a single word to a real person.
Sure, maybe I wrote some work emails, and I certainly typed a lot of words. But I hadn’t actually connected with a real human being in all that time.
That type of life isn’t good for mental health.
So if you feel isolated, or if you just plain need someone to talk to about…anything, WPHugs provides a WordPress-specific community where you can do that.
What Is WPHugs?
In Leo’s own words, “WPHugs offers an open safe space to connect & share about our mental & emotional well-being with other like-minded people in the WordPress Community.”
It’s a project aimed at both raising awareness of mental health issues and actually helping people in the WordPress community connect and talk about those issues together.
At the WPHugs website, you’ll find:
- A blog – while there isn’t much there right now, Leo’s goal is to turn this into something akin to HeroPress, where individuals can share their own stories about mental health. If you’d like to share your story with the community, I encourage you to get in touch with Leo.
- Various talks from WordPress contributors – on the Talks page, Leo has collected a number of WordCamp talks on the topic of mental health. This page includes all the talks that I mentioned in the introduction to this post, as well as some others you can check out.
Beyond those two pages on the website, the core community part of WPHugs is its Slack channel, which you can get an invite to by registering at the WPHugs website.
The Slack channel is a “group of individuals who are caring and non-judgemental. A Place where we ask “How are you?” and care about what you say – and you can be honest.”
While you’re always welcome to participate in the general channel, you should also feel free to just silently participate or reach out over direct messages.
This channel is what I think is especially valuable because it can help you overcome that isolation I mentioned before. You can reach out and connect with real people whenever you need some human connection or want to discuss something that you’re feeling.
Where To Learn More About WPHugs
If you’d like to learn more about WPHugs and what drove Leo to start the project, here’s some great further reading:
- WP Tavern interview with Leo Gopal about WPHugs – Leo talks about his depression and the other factors that drove him to start WPHugs.
- Leo Gopal’s 2016 WordCamp Cape Town talk – Leo is very open about his experiences in this talk.
- WPHugs Code of Conduct – the code of conduct should give you a deeper understanding of what WPHugs aims to be.
Here’s How To Get Involved With WPHugs
If you want to become a part of the WPHugs community, here’s how you can get started:
- Join the Slack channel
- Contribute your time or product to the WPHugs project
- Donate to OSMI – Open Sourcing Mental Illness is a nonprofit recommended by Leo for the work it does with mental health in the tech industry
Other Places To Get Help With Mental Health
Beyond WPHugs, there are other places you can turn to for support:
- If Me – a community to read and/or share experiences with mental health
- Burnout.io – a website to help you recognize the signs of burnout (and what to do about it)
- Mental Illness Happy Hour – a podcast and community built around mental health. A great listen to remind you that you’re not alone
- Mental Health First Aid – a website to help you help others with mental health issues
In general, the entire OSMI Resources page is a good place to start for more resources.
In B.J.’s recent post on mental health at Elegant Themes, you all left some great reactions. Leaving comments on topics like these is important because it reminds others that they aren’t alone in experiencing issues. So if you have a short thought or comment on the WPHugs project, it would be great if you can leave a comment so that we can all work together to build awareness.
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