On Aaron Swartz, Depression & Generation Y
Swartz was a passionate activist who believed that the public should have open access to information, which got him into major trouble. He was set to appear in court this past Monday for hacking into MIT’s web servers and accessing their journals – and according to reports, was due to spend some time in jail.
Mashable posted an Op-Ed piece discussing the stigma of Depression in the Techie community. The piece, written by Christina Warren, shared the author’s own battle with depression throughout the majority of her life. She had exchanged emails in the past with Swartz, and the two had both written publicly about their struggles. In the end, Warren says;
“Stigma doesn’t go away until the population hears personal stories from the afflicted. History bears this out, time after time, with each stigmatized group. More stories means creating a culture where future Aaron’s know they can speak out about their suffering”
Swartz’s suicide has affected many of us. It hits close to home.
For those of us who have battled depression, myself included, it a reminder that the disease does not prejudice. It effects the young, the old, the wealthy and the poor. There is no single face to represent it.
The past week however, I believe that the loss of Aaron Swartz has truly jolted many twenty-somethings – members of Generation Y. A few years my junior, I can say that I am one of those individuals who has spent more than a few moments thinking about how tragic a loss his life is.
How his future was so bright.
How his parents must be heartbroken.
How desperate he must have felt toward the end of his life.
Swartz has come to represent the face of so many of my peers.
When less than one quarter of young adults consider themselves emotionally healthy, it is safe to say there is an epidemic occurring.
As for a solution, is sharing our own stories, as Warren pleads in her piece, the best way that we can help to end the stigma associated with depression? Can we shatter the preconceptions about mental illness and replace judgment and ignorance with compassion?
Perhaps compassion can play a major role in shaping the future of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Maybe Aaron’s death does not have to be completely in vain.
If we want to help those suffering from depression, we have to change ourselves. We have to become advocates for compassion and empathy. As Plato said:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.