Bringing Awareness to the Mental Health of Crypto

By Neale Orinick

Mental health issues have always been a concern in the financial and entrepreneurial communities. Despite more attention being brought to mental health problems and the numerous celebrities speaking out about it, a stigma still hangs over admitting to mental health struggles.  The advent of cryptocurrencies with its large population of amateur and young investors has contributed to an increase in mental health problems in this country and globally. 

Mental health in the crypto community has become a hot topic of discussion, namely, how the negative impact of cryptocurrency losses and the volatility of an emerging market can be mitigated through more awareness and programs to destigmatize mental health issues and offer more support to members of crypto communities living with mental health challenges. 

Speaking Out

During Denver, Colorado’s Start-up Week, three young entrepreneurs and members of the crypto community held an open and frank discussion about mental health issues in the crypto space and offered up suggestions for combating the insidious effects of mental health struggles and the stigma around seeking treatment. 

Dave Mayer, CEO and founder of Technical Integrity, an executive search, and technical recruitment firm, hosted a discussion joined by others in the start-up and crypto communities to discuss their own very personal struggles with mental health issues and offered up some possible solutions to help others going through the same thing.

Joining Mayer was Shira Frank with the MIT Digital Currency Initiative and founder of Maiden, the world’s first research lab specializing in consumer insights for emerging economic technologies (including digital currencies such as Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and central bank digital currency).

Also joining the discussion was Kevin Owocki, the founder of Gitcoin, a blockchain-based incentivization layer for Open Source Software.

As the three openly discussed their mental health struggles in the volatile world of cryptocurrency trading they offered some sage advice for others who have their own mental health struggles.

Mayer talked at length about how mental health issues, especially for men, are still a taboo topic. 

“Men are told to avoid their trauma. To just suppress it.” 

He also pointed to technology and social media exacerbating mental health issues. 

“With a smartphone, you are always reachable, can always be checking your cryptos, always connected with social media at your fingertips.”

He also pointed out and got nods of agreement from Frank and Owocki, that social media surrounding the crypto community tends to only show the successes and rarely the failures and losses. This creates unrealistic, and for many, unattainable goals in the crypto space. There’s a lack of authenticity in social media that can create mental health challenges, but learning from challenges and failures is important.

“Only talking about the good things is a failed business model.” 

Mayer, Frank, and Owocki offered up some good advice to anyone in the crypto community struggling with mental health issues. They also talked about what they are personally doing or striving for in making good mental health a priority for themselves and their employees. 

Frank noted that she knows a lot of women who have left the crypto community because “it is so intense.”  For herself, personally, she will only invest an amount of money she can afford to lose and has explored different treatments to deal with past traumas. At her company, Maiden, mental health care is written right into employment contracts-a human value page that is about the company culture of being kind to each other, how to access the wellness Slack channel, and encouraging personal check-ins with yourself and co-workers. 

Owocki says he finds center with meditation and makes it a priority to stay connected to family and friends so as not to lose himself entirely in his work and the highs and lows of the cryptocurrency markets.

Mayer added, “Many entrepreneurs and those getting into the crypto space are passionate about that space and it is easy to lose yourself, lose your connection to family, friends, hobbies, and passions that are not crypto or business-related.  It is important to set boundaries with yourself and others (clients) and disconnect once in a while, find pleasurable non-business activities, and ignore social media. Check out and be fully present for sports, family, reading, whatever you enjoy.”

Mayer, Frank, and Owocki acknowledged that social media platforms are unlikely to change from highlighting the big wins, the successes, and ignoring the losses and the lows that inevitably follow highs. They suggested people look elsewhere for support. In-person events, clubs, and online groups with like-minded individuals are a better place to talk about crypto losses, fears, and mental health challenges. Finding a community within the crypto community that is supportive and more realistic about what it is like trading cryptocurrencies in today’s volatile market is important for anyone dealing with crypto-related or any financial mental health challenges. 

Blockchain Technology Can Help

How can blockchain technology help with mental health issues in the crypto community?

One of the barriers between those with mental health challenges and getting the help they need are platforms where people feel safe giving voice to their struggles. Blockchain technology offers such a platform not inhibited by geographical barriers allowing people to find sources of support and even therapy anywhere in the world with no central authority in place. It also provides better security for the deeply intimate and intense discussions that are necessary for treating the underlying causes of mental distress.

While meditation, mindfulness, and self-reflection have gained in popularity and become more mainstream in the United States, these forms of mental self-care are deeply rooted in other cultures with boundless options to find the right mix of spirituality, meditation guidance, and mindfulness training to suit the individual. 

Another benefit of using blockchain technology to combat mental health problems is the ability to privately and safely store a patient’s medication and therapy history without the individual having to repeat that history to several different doctors, therapists, and clinicians. All the information could be stored in one place and easily accessible to the mental health practitioners an individual cares to share it with for continuity of care. 

Many companies have responded to the “Silent Pandemic,” as mental health is often called because of the stigma still heavily surrounding it, by creating corporate wellness programs. 

“But the paperwork and hierarchy behind these programs deter individuals from participating in them. Blockchain resolves this by providing a seamless platform to record the activities, document the progress while facilitating the easy transfer of incentives. The ease of use, created by blockchain tech, is a key advantage to further the efficiency of the wellness initiatives.”

Again, blockchain technology offers a better platform for privately and securely recording an individual’s participation and progress in a wellness program and encourages greater participation with the easy transfer of incentives to participate. 

Commercialization of Wellness Programs Using Blockchain

At first glance, this may seem like a terrible, and well, callous idea. However, if the goal is to make mental health support and wellness programs more accessible, incentives using blockchain technology could help. 

We live in an era of access to anything through the internet, social media at our fingertips, and a culture that demands instant gratification. Monetizing wellness creates an opportunity and incentive for content creators of yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques, just to name a few, to bring their content to a global audience. Games that promote mindfulness, relaxation, meditation, and mental health self-care will give rise to communities of people sharing many of the same struggles and have similar interests. 

“By gamifying healthy practices using blockchain and crypto, the industry is touted to reach new highs. Bringing in commercialization is how mindfulness practices can provide long-lasting solutions to mental health concerns across the globe.”

Deepak Chopra, the internationally famous Indian-American and alternative medicine advocate for using meditation and yoga for better physical and mental health, sees great potential in blockchain technology merging with meditation. 

In a Forbes article by Jason Brett published in August 2020 Chopra said:

“I have been looking at blockchain for a while. I always believed we now need a platform that has traceability, that has collaboration, that has proof-of-work. I am a big student of emergence, which means when you have a shared vision, when you value people’s differences, something happens when there is true transparency when everything is measurable. Blockchain moves us in that direction.”

Along with co-founders Gabriella Wright and Poonacha Machaiah, Chopra is building Never Alone, a blockchain-based platform in order to democratize access to mental health resources.

The Crypto Community Is Highly Susceptible To Mental Health Challenges

Cryptocurrency trading has created a new addiction crisis according to the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, which published:

“At the intersection of the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and new, easily accessible online trading platforms like Robinhood, is a dangerous place for many uninformed individuals looking to get into trading cryptocurrency that is ripe for addiction and addictive behaviors. Similar to drugs and alcohol, and mirroring gambling addiction, cryptocurrency offers individuals an opportunity to trade coins for the “rush.” The thrill of gambling, the hope of a financial windfall, and the cheap access point is creating a dangerous arena where many individuals are betting large sums of money, and often facing potentially dangerous consequences.”

Americans are crazy for crypto, no doubt. “The volatility is exciting. In this country, we have a thriving culture of thrill-seekers who relish the gambling aspect of cryptocurrencies.”

Just like any form of gambling from the tables in Vegas, online, and in all aspects of the financial world, cryptocurrencies attract the kind of personalities who are prone to addiction. The age range of most crypto investors is also the age group seeing the largest rise in depression and suicides, ages 18-25 and 45-64. Combined with the volatility of the market and the debilitating effects of a global pandemic, it’s no wonder mental health issues abound in crypto communities.

The good news is there are more and more brave individuals willing to speak up in the face of mental health stigmas to bring about more awareness and offer solutions to the problem. Blockchain technology itself holds great promise in helping those with mental health challenges on a global scale, creating supportive communities to destigmatize talking about mental health issues and offering new ways for those with them to cope. 

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