MENTAL HEALTH IN THE CYBERSECURITY INDUSTRY
As it is the end of mental health awareness month, I thought I should speak about mental health in the cybersecurity industry; and my own experiences. Research last year in the UK showed that tech workers are five times more likely to be depressed than others – a scary statistic. This is something I have seen personally, myself and lots of colleagues having mental health issues due to different aspects of cybersecurity. Lets talk about why mental health in cybersecurity is such a big problem, and what we can all do to help ourselves and others.
Disclaimer – These are just my own views and opinions on mental health and how it links to the cybersecurity industry. I am not a mental health professional.
Why is mental health such a big problem in cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity can affect your mental health in a large number of ways. The reasons for this can differ but they include :
- Long work hours – Many cybersecurity professionals work very long hours. They log in early, work late and then also work weekends and holidays. This makes people tired and stressed.
- Skill shortages – It is well known that most cyber security teams have a skill shortage. A lack of trained staff makes the work of experienced members harder. They are short staffed and also have to train new members.
- Mental health background – Tech, and cybersecurity in particular; attracts people with mental health problems.
- High expectations to detect and respond to cybersecurity incidents, causing a lot of pressure and stress.
- Being thanked or praised is rare
- When things go wrong – e.g. something is missed or a data breach occurs, a lot of blame is placed on the cybersecurity team, again causing further stress.
What mental health problems can this cause?
These issues can cause a long list of mental health problems, which include but are not limited too:
- Worrying and fear
- Feeling sad and low
- Feelings of confusion
- Problems concentrating
- Sleeping far too little, or far too much
- Avoiding others or struggling to understand others
- More than regular feelings of anger and irritation
- Eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
- Feeling overly happy and then very low in a short period of time
- Abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with problems
- Suicidal thoughts
What can you do to help yourself and others?
It can be tough, however there a number of things we can do to help each other and ourselves when it comes to mental health.
- The first thing I would like to mention is getting another hobby outside cybersecurity. This isn’t for everyone, but it helps myself and others I know a lot. I personally enjoy going to the gym which helps me switch off. It could be gaming, going walks, making art or anything you like – just try and get away from cybersecurity regularly to give yourself a break.
- Know when to say no. It is easy to say yes to everyone and get overwhelmed quickly. Try not to let this happen – ask others for help and keep sure your manager is aware of your workload.
- Take regular breaks – this means a few things. Firstly, whilst working keep sure you take regular breaks for drinks, walks and the toilet. This might sound obvious, but it easy to sit their and forget to take breaks, which can lead to stress. Secondly, keep sure to take holidays when you can. A holiday away, or just a break at home can really help you switch off from work and recharge. During this time off, try to turn off work devices and completely switch off. Many people take holidays but still look at work regularly- which doesn’t help.
- You don’t need to know everything. Many cybersecurity professionals believe they need to know everything and get upset with themselves if they don’t. Instead of getting upset, take this as a chance to learn, most people will also understand that you cant know everything.
- Talk to others. Whether this is friends, family or colleagues – talk to someone. Tell them what you are feeling and the issues you are facing. If you feel comfortable doing so, try talking to your colleagues and / or managers to ask for help. If you are struggling, they will try and help you. They may help with a problem you are stuck with, or pick up work for you if you are overwhelmed.
- Keep active and eat well. Keeping healthy and eating well has really helped me personally and I feel a lot better for it. I highly recommend it as it exercise keeps your mind busy and eating healthy just makes you feel better and more energetic.
- Be there for others. If you think a colleague is struggling with their mental health, let them know you are there for them. Listen to their thoughts and see how you can help them.
- If you are feeling severely depressed or suicidal please contact a medical or mental health professional immediately.
Mental Health Resources
Here are some resources I have personally used, which may help someone else –
- Mental Health Hackers have a lot of great advice around mental health. Their resources / links page is particularly helpful in my opinion – https://www.mentalhealthhackers.org/resources-and-links/. They also have a twitter account – https://twitter.com/HackersHealth
- Global list of mental health resources – https://checkpointorg.com/global/
- The calm app can help lower stress and get better sleep, I really like it – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/calm/id571800810
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I really hope that it helps someone; and also helps raise awareness around mental health. It can affect anyone and does not discriminate. If you have any further tips, or resources I can add to this article, then please tell me at https://twitter.com/blueteamblog.