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Mental Health and High Tech: Starting the Discussion in the Workplace
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When: 8/23/2016
Where: Hatch Fenway
401 Park Dr
Boston, Massachusetts  02215
United States
Contact: Mike Johnson

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Mental Health and High Tech: Starting the Discussion in the Workplace

August 23rd Massachusetts starts changing how we talk about mental health in the tech community.

Many of the smartest, most innovative, artistic, and successful people in the world have struggled with depression and other mental health issues but very few are open to discussing it and often we don’t until it’s too late. In the tech industry we’ve seen this with Aaron Swartz, Austen Heinz, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, and Faigy Mayer.

Some issues come with just existing in tech: shipping culture, high expectations, brutal critiques, organizational chaos can lead to overwhelming stress, fear of failure, and ultimately, burnout.

The fast pace, hyper focus needed, the power of an individual contributor, and the idea that you have a power to change the world can also be a magnet some who struggle with other issues like ADHD or those who thrive in manic states.

5% of the US population suffers from bipolar disorder it’s suggested that it’s 3-4x’s higher for software developers, 7% suffers from depression and Dr. Michael Freedman reported that 49% of the 242 entrepreneurs he surveyed reported having a mental health condition.

Our morning will feature a talk from Jennifer Akullian, PhD, a People Developer at Keen IO in San Francisco, CA who works with individuals to gain insight and pursue self-actualization to be the best version of themselves and has recently published a series of guidebooks on Mental Health in Tech.

Dr. Debra Lerner will discuss her current research on how employee depression results in absenteeism and presenteeism (at-work limitations), which is costly to employees, their employers and the nation. She will also present strategies from the Be Well At Work Program-an innovative, practical program she and her team has developed for assisting and working with employees with depression to feel better and function better at work. 

Following her talk we will have a panel discussion about how and what human resources can do to help their employees and improve their company’s Mental Health Policy.

We will pull this all back to tech with a look at some of the products our tech companies are building and how they can help employees that struggle with depression, stress, and other mental health issues.



Jennifer Akullian, PhD.

 Jennifer is a People Developer at Keen IO in San Francisco, CA where she works with individuals to gain insight and pursue self-actualization to be the best version of themselves. A licensed psychologist, she also advocates for mental health awareness in the tech community through projects such as MHPrompt and Open Sourcing Mental Illness.


Debra Lerner, MS, PhD         


      Dr. Lerner is a Senior Scientist within the Tufts Medical Center Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies (ICRHPS) and founder and Director of the Program on Health, Work and Productivity. She is a Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Lerner also serves as the Director of Evaluation and Tracking for Tufts Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

     Dr. Lerner has dedicated her career to improving the health and well-being of working people and enabling them to participate fully and productively in the workplace. Dr. Lerner and her colleagues have extensive expertise in survey research and developed the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ), which is used throughout the world and has become a standard of measurement.  In addition, Dr. Lerner’s team has developed innovative intervention programs to enhance the functional performance and work productivity of working people with depression. Sponsorship for this research has been provided by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

          Dr. Lerner has published numerous articles on health and productivity improvement, many of which address the topic of depression in the workplace. She has served on many scientific panels and advisory boards including the Health Project, which administers the C. Everett Koop Award to for employer excellence in workplace health promotion.



Elizabeth Jalbert

Director of Human Resources

Toast, Inc






Skyler Place

VP Product Research and Design


Skyler has an expertise in developing and utilizing new technologies to better understand and predict human behavior. At Cogito he is responsible for turning ideas into research prototypes and prototypes into products. Skyler’s team manages both external sponsored research efforts as well as internal product design. Prior to Cogito, he led extensive academic research projects on honest signals, social influence, decision-making and behavioral health. Skyler holds a BA in Computer Science from Colby College, PhDs in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Indiana University, and completed his post-doctoral work in Computational Social Science at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.






About Hatch Fenway:

Hatch Fenway is a launch pad for rapidly scaling innovation companies with disruptive ideas. The Hatch is a one-of-a-kind community that offers flexible offices sizes, short-term leases, and a host of amenities including shared conference rooms and The Coop event space all located in the historic Fenway neighborhood. Learn more at 


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