Is there anyone working full-time on helping EAs address mental health problems?

post by richard_ngo · 2021-11-01T03:42:30.027Z · EA · GW · 21 comments

This is a question post.

The EA mindset of focusing on doing the most good can exacerbate mental health issues (particularly self-esteem, guilt, and insecurity). It seems like this is occasionally addressed in blog posts (such as those by Julia Wise at Giving Gladly and Nate Soares' Replacing Guilt series) or podcasts (like Howie's 80k episode). But is there anyone working full-time on trying to improve the mental health of EAs at a large scale - e.g. by generating more material like this? And if not, what would the best interventions for someone in that position to try? I'm thinking particularly about a hypothetical person funded by grants to do so, since it doesn't seem like something which relies too heavily on being at an existing org.

Answers

answer by Gavin (technicalities) · 2021-11-01T09:45:19.213Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I recently got a wee grant to investigate this. Working with a therapist (Damon Sasi) to survey and design things. Currently planning to focus on undergrads and dropouts.

If you know anyone who could use help, send them this https://forms.gle/XydbsMw4Hkyrs4As6

If you have ideas or want to help, talk to me!

comment by Chris Leong (casebash) · 2021-11-02T03:24:45.847Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Wee grant?

Replies from: technicalities
comment by Gavin (technicalities) · 2021-11-02T07:44:11.153Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Scottish adj: "so small it's cute"

Replies from: casebash
comment by Chris Leong (casebash) · 2021-11-03T01:14:30.650Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Haa, for some reason I thought it was an abbreviation for a funder I'd never heard of before.

answer by Ben Williamson (ben3536) · 2021-11-01T15:03:46.748Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I've recently received a grant from EA Funds for a pilot project on exactly this! 

I'll be publishing a series of articles on the Forum over the next several weeks looking at the most effective ways people can improve their wellbeing. 

I'm currently in the weeds of researching a whole range of potential interventions/ suggestions but excited to move forward soon with publishing some initial findings. 

Definitely keen to discuss the project with anyone interested/ with ideas they think could be useful/ possibly wanting to contribute. 

[edit: I've now written up a rough explanation of the project's aims and concept here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OFXR8Ltuo73lqt6_kjoPBJogkuQ8B-RHzE12GRPfpCU/edit?usp=sharing]

answer by Dicentra · 2021-11-01T07:19:33.935Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There is this thing, the EA Mental Health Navigator

comment by Chris Leong (casebash) · 2021-11-02T03:28:44.278Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Someone really needs to disable the Wix banner

Replies from: Emily Jennings
comment by Emily (Emily Jennings) · 2021-11-03T08:17:49.732Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Banner is now disabled !

answer by AppliedDivinityStudies · 2021-11-01T09:07:28.057Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There are some "EA coaches", though I'm not sure what balance they tend to strike between mental health and increasing productivity.

Scott Alexander has been compiling some articles here: https://lorienpsych.com/ This is sort of meant as an early prototype of the ideas here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/06/20/cost-disease-in-medicine-the-practical-perspective/ It seems pretty basic, but I've found it very useful. It's rare to have any kind of source that is simultaneously A) high trust informally, B) from a conventionally credentialed expert and C) offering that advice sincerely in a way that aligns with your goals (as opposed to avoiding liability, etc).

I'm not sure generating more material is the way to go. I don't have it all compiled, but I feel like there's plenty of EA content along the lines of "don't feel guilty all the time for not giving away all of your money".

Also FWIW, I think a big part of what you're describing in selection effects. EA might be the proximate cause of guilt, but it's a community that selects for neurotic and scrupulous people.

answer by Gina Hafez · 2021-11-01T17:07:18.401Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hey Richard,

I’m one of the EA therapists interested in a more collective mental health care initiative in EA. I’m currently running complimentary peer process support groups that incorporate mental health first aid skills/support but also serves as a space for existential and philosophical explorations and meaning making that I know many EAs benefit tremendously from. The goal of these groups is to be a self-sustaining small group force that can run without a therapist intervention. I’m primarily interested in helping pass on therapy tools, knowledge and education that can be held be community connectedness and the natural curiosity of EAs!

I’m open to anything you have as a suggestion to help me pick up more momentum. And if you’re interested to join a group message me at gina@sunstonecounselors.com

comment by Julia_Wise · 2021-11-02T17:33:23.804Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Gina and several other therapists in EA are listed here: https://eamentalhealth.wixsite.com/navigator/therapists

answer by Carolin Basilowski · 2021-11-01T12:33:12.137Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I co-organized the Unconference with Manuel Allgaier for the last 3 years and share the impression that there is a huge need for support structures for struggling EAs. My current idea is to run an event in summer 2022 focused on Burnout Prevention/Mental Health for EAs. 
If you are interested in giving input/sharing advice/organizing the event with me, don't hesitate to reach out!

answer by Chris Leong (casebash) · 2021-11-02T03:44:26.706Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I recently completed an internship at Nonlinear. As part of that internship, I interviewed a few people in order to learn about their experiences with mental health. I could write up a summary of results if anyone is interested (although I'm writing up the results of my interviews re: the AI safety pipeline is higher on the list).

When I left, Nonlinear was considering investing in Multiplers for Existing Talent in AI (possibly other existential risks too). The idea was to identify high impact people and offer them funding for items or services that might improve their productivity. Therapy was one such service that seemed promising.

answer by Dvir Caspi · 2021-11-01T05:17:09.993Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I like this post, a lot, thanks Richard!
I think you are addressing two things - 

1. The first is something called "burnout" - in which you feel absolutely depleted and exhausted from your work. EAers are more prone to this, because you feel a lot of weight on your shoulders when you work on something that its success or failure could impact peoples lives. Even more prone are EAers that are activists, working on projects that do not enjoy common support - and even the opposite. I can share from my personal experience I had as an Animal Rights activist - people mocked us, degraded our work, etc. (and we were the friendliest ever). It tripled the burnout. I agree that creating content around how to manage (or even avoid) burnout is fantastic for the EA community. I think such work is described as "Meta-EA". You gave me a great idea, to write a post about how to manage/avoid burnout! I will publish it in the forum in the upcoming weeks. 

2. Improving the general MH (Mental Health) of EAers (regardless of Burnout) - this is also a "Meta-EA" topic. As someone who is studying Clinical Psychology I thought about it myself, just volunteering (in the future, when I'm licensed and all that) making myself available without any pay for EAers in my local community of EA Israel who are struggling, and could contact me for some initial consultancy. (It needs to be very, very well defined how exactly to do this - you don't want to do more harm than good, but it's possible). 

comment by Ben Williamson (ben3536) · 2021-11-01T14:57:39.476Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm guessing you've probably seen this already if you're interested in burnout for EAs but this [EA · GW] is a good article on the topic published a few years ago on the Forum (though I'm sure a new article could add additional value!)

answer by AlanTaylor · 2021-11-08T20:35:03.306Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Me soon hopefully! 

I'm currently still a student but graduate in June 2022 and hoping to go straight onto an (e.g.) EAIF fund doing peer support and mental health strategy input in EA Groups, or something more generally in the mental health x community building space. 

Let me know if you'd like to chat more about this (anyone)! <3

answer by Kristyna Stastna · 2021-11-08T11:27:14.674Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Richard,

We’ve received a grant for designing a mindfulness-based mental health project. Our vision is to create an online 4-8 week-long program for EAs, with a facilitator and peer-support group. Each week will focus on some relevant topic. We are currently working on workshops on Self-Compassion, Widening the Circles of Compassion, Relating to others. We are planning to continue with workshops on imposter syndrome and feelings of shame and guilt, uncertainty etc. We would love to hear your feedback on our work in progress, what you think about these problems, and how to address them.

If anybody wants to discuss it further, feel free to contact us: kristyna@stastna.cz 

Many thanks,

Kristyna Stastna and Terezie Kosikova


 

 


 


 

answer by Emily (Emily Jennings) · 2021-11-03T08:53:59.745Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Richard,

Yes! As Dicentra mentioned in her comment, there is an EA Mental Health Navigator Service, which was first launched in 2019 (more information available here [EA · GW]). Danica Wilbanks recently (as in today, November 3rd) posted an update on the EA Mental Health Navigator Service, which is available here [EA · GW]. 

The EA Mental Health Navigator Service is meant to assist EAs with finding helpful mental health resources and accessing care. In October, the Navigator Service received a grant from the EA Infrastructure Fund to fund a part-time Project Manager and expand to become a global network of navigator volunteers, who help with both curating material for a publicly available databank of EA mental health resources and meeting with EA community members who might need some extra help finding mental health resources.

I'm the new Project Manager, and I'm hoping to greatly expand the service over the next 6 months. Starting this week, I'm recruiting volunteers who are skilled in either marketing or web design, as well as volunteers who are keen to either help with updating and continuing to build the resource databank or help out with providing consultations to EA community members. If you know of anyone who might be interested in volunteering, please do encourage them to reach out to me at ea.mh.navigator@gmail.com

answer by MichaelA · 2021-11-03T08:25:18.243Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Here's a directory of Coaches and therapists in the effective altruism & rationality sphere.

(Apologies if that was already mentioned - I only skimmed the other answers)

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comment by HowieL · 2021-11-01T10:26:40.920Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Somebody recently suggested to me that they'd find it useful for a bunch of EAs to anonymously write up some thoughts on their experience with mental health (maybe especially at work).

Wondering how useful other people think this would be.

comment by MichaelA · 2021-11-03T08:26:29.095Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Minor related thing: This small thread [EA(p) · GW(p)] starting with "An effective mental health intervention, for me, is listening to a podcast which ideally (1) discusses the thing I'm struggling with and (2) has EA, Rationality or both in the background. I gain both in-the-moment relief, and new hypotheses to test or tools to try.

Esp since it would be scalable, this makes me think that creating an EA mental health podcast would be an intervention worth testing - I wonder if anyone is considering this?"