July 18 2018

A Better Future for Mental Health & Technology

By coming to Anxiety Tech, you will learn how to advocate for mental health at work, how technology can be better designed to support mental health, what technologies are already working to help those who suffer with mental illnesses, and how you or your company can be leaders in this field.

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Time Presentation
8:00 Registration / Light Breakfast
9:00 Amber Case - The Future of Anxiety and Technology

Does technology cause anxiety and depression? Or is it our anxiety and depression that draw us to repetitive behaviors? What is it about social media that draws us in, and can we change it? Our every moment has been altered by the advent of the smartphone, but was this the original promise of technology? If we live in a world that we cannot control, can choose how we use our time? This talk will use primary and secondary resources to construct an overview of consumption, distraction and what it means to be human in the disposable age. We'll talk about anomie, time and space, the industrial revolution and media density.

9:45 Short Break
10:00 Solome Tibebu - Why We Need Innovation in Mental Health Tech

Historically, mental health hasn’t exactly been known to be the hub of innovation compared to other sectors in healthcare. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to innovate in mental health by capitalizing on the changing healthcare landscapes, consumer demand and risings costs on our society.

However, if we are going to implement mental health innovations successfully, these solutions need to be delivered at the right place, at the right time and for the right audience. Join us to discuss why mental health tech innovation is due for a large upgrade, identify key stakeholders, and outline how innovators can capture untapped opportunity by keeping the patient at the center of the solutions they develop.

10:30 Pamela Fox - Fight Tech with Tech: Take Control of your Digital Environment

Taking a break from your always-connected computer and phone can do wonders for your state of mind. But what happens when you inevitably return to the digital realm, and find yourself in a world of advertisements, polarized comment threads, and endless sources of instant gratification? Good news: there's an app for that! Actually, there are a growing number of tools to help you personalize your internet experience to be better for your mental health -- and if there isn't one that meets your needs, you just might be able to code one yourself.

11:00 Jonathan Sockell - VR Mental Health Startup: From Idea to Reality
11:30 April Wensel - Cultivating Compassionate Communities

If you contribute to open source, attend meetups, or just exist in the tech industry, you are likely a member of multiple tech communities. Our communities can be an incredible source of strength and comfort. They can support our personal and professional growth while satisfying a universal human need for belonging. However, in tech, many of our communities have become exclusionary clubs with unnecessary and unfair barriers to participation. These hostile, ego-driven communities create ingroups and outgroups, causing shame and stress in members and non-members alike.

Compassion is the key to creating more inclusive and supportive communities. Compassionate developer communities welcome newcomers, support the well-being of existing members, and contribute to positive change in society overall. As a tech community member, you’ll leave this talk equipped with practical tools for transforming your various communities in order to produce happier developers and ultimately, a more socially conscious tech industry.

12:00 Lunch
1:00 Jenna Quindica - Living with Bipolar Disorder as a Software Engineer
Bipolar disorder is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses. Have you ever wondered what it's like to live with bipolar disorder? Look no further because this talk dives into being misdiagnosed as depression, getting diagnosed as bipolar I, and receiving treatment. All of this is in the context of maintaining a full-time job as a software engineer. Bipolar disorder shouldn't be stigmatized because 2.6% of the American population has it. This talk hopes to pay down the stigma and explain the gifts, too, of bipolar disorder.
1:30 Jessica DiVento, PsyD - Sorry Not Sorry: Advocating for Mental Health at Work
1 in 5 Americans live with mental health conditions. Untreated issues can lead to lower satisfaction and functioning at work. So why is talking about it so taboo? Having your employer’s support can make all the difference in this process, and how you approach this conversation is important. This talk will focus on key issues in advocating for your mental health at work, including:
  1. Psychological Safety - what it is, why it’s important, how to identify it, and what to do if it’s not present
  2. Damned if you do/damned if you don’t – why talking about your mental health at work is important
  3. How to have “The Talk” with your boss and teammates, including how to ask them to support you and knowing how much to share
  4. Navigating the benefits system – accommodations, leaves of absence, and insurance in helping you get the support you need
2:00 Bryan Hughes - Hacking with My Anxiety

Anxiety is hard because it permeates everything. One way it complicates life is by making it difficult to keep in touch with people. So, Bryan created a JavaScript app to help. In this talk, he’ll discuss how his brain works and why it gets in the way of communication with people he cares about. Then, Bryan will walk you through how he created an app and remixed common design patterns to cater to anxiety specifically.

2:30 Shemika Lamare - Self Care: Avoiding Burnout

If you are find yourself questioning how to balance your life, know that you are not alone! Working, side projects, volunteering, self-care, personal relationships and so much more are all happening at the same time, and self care can easily get lost in the list! Self Care is an important part of what can keep us fueled and able to complete all the things we want to accomplish. Come add new tools to your toolbox as you figure out what self care means to you and what small actionable items you can do incorporate it into your daily life.

3:00 Snack Break
3:30 Shawn Kernes - Getting Therapy to Those Who Need it Most

An estimated 50-60 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas with limited access to mental health care. Even for individuals in areas with adequate care, many people including teens and young adults, working couples, and those with mobility issues are often unable to travel to regular appointments. Continuity of care also becomes a major issue for students who live part-time on campus and part-time at home, and adults who move or travel frequently for work.

For those who do make the decision to seek professional help, they often don't know how to effectively choose a therapist and experience long wait times just to get an initial consultation. But issues such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse don’t wait two weeks for the next available appointment.

This session will address the variety of roadblocks that get in the way of effective mental health treatment, and will take a look at the options for addressing and overcoming these issues.

4:00 Ada Ng - UX of Wearables in Clinical Treatment for PTSD

Studies in the use of wearables have promised better diagnoses, patient empowerment, and overall improved health outcomes. But doctors are busy, patients don’t know what date is useful to track, and electronic health records aren’t built to hold wearable data. To better understand that current state of wearable data integration, we studied a clinic that was providing free Fitbits to veterans that were undergoing intensive treatment for PTSD. This program was not only providing the traditional cognitive processing therapy but also wellness, yoga, and art therapy. In this talk, we’ll tell the story of how the Fitbits are used from both patient perspective and the healthcare perspective and discuss how technology and processes still need to change in order to fulfill the promises of better care through wearables.

4:30 Skip Rizzo - The Evolution of VR Therapy
5:30 Closing Remarks




Mental health affects all of us, regardless of our career, gender, lifestyle, or hobbies. Similarly, technology affects all of us as well, whether we are on the frontlines, designing and programming, or simply using and engaging with it. By coming to Anxiety Tech, you will learn how to advocate for mental health at work, how technology can be better designed to support mental health, what technologies are already working to help those who suffer with mental illnesses, and how you or your company can be leaders in this field.

The event is being organized by Jamund & Kari Ferguson who started the events company Mental Illness Matters to bring people together to talk about mental illness. Kari is the author of the book The OCD Mormon about her struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. Jamund is a JavaScript architect at PayPal.

Register Today

Code of Conduct

All attendees, speakers, sponsors and volunteers at our conference are required to agree with the following code of conduct. Organisers will enforce this code throughout the event. We are expecting cooperation from all participants to help ensuring a safe environment for everybody.

The Quick Version

Our conference is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks, workshops, parties, Twitter and other online media. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the conference organisers.

The Less Quick Version

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, mental illness, body size, race, ethnicity, religion, technology choices, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

Sponsors are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, sponsors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

Enforcement and Consequences

If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organisers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund. refund. If behavior warrants security or police presence, those authorities will be contacted.

Contact and Reporting

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff will be wearing AnxietyTech t-shirts. You can also e-mail reports to conduct@anxietytech.com and they will be dealt with promptly.

Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

We expect participants to follow these rules at conference and workshop venues and conference-related social events.