If you’re someone, or you know of someone who has been impacted by mental health illness, then you may find there are aspects of this letter that will be hard to read.
This also hasn’t been an easy letter for me to write!
As someone who’s naturally an introvert, the idea of writing a letter to the WordPress community filled me with dread. But it’s an important subject that needs to be discussed more openly; mental health within the WordPress community.
A member of our WordPress community here in the UK and friend to many recently took his own life. This is a deeply upsetting time for all who knew Vaughan Simons. He was witty, a great writer and passionate about providing a great quality of service through his freelance business. He was also giving; he was to lead the WordCamp London 2019 Accessibility Team, volunteering his time to ensuring the event would be open to all.
Publicly his comments across multiple community forums portrayed a funny, confident individual. Privately though, Vaughan, like so many others, was living with an illness that was eventually to take his life.
Our WordPress community is made up of millions of people, hundreds of thousands of small business owners and tens of thousands of big businesses. Our working environments have changed over the years, as freelancers, solo-business owners and employed distributed team members; we’re now at increased risk of isolation, anxiety and depression.
As a community, we’re generally good at coming together, through meetups and WordCamps. We communicate via multiple Slack teams, Facebook groups and even the Make blogs but there are still people, our friends, who are left feeling alone and isolated.
Big Orange Heart is a registered UK charity with a mission to; support and promote positive mental health within the WordPress community. Over the last 12 months, as an unfunded organisation, over 3,300 people hours have been donated to help those reaching out to us. We currently can’t provide professional mental health support as this comes at a cost. Our current processes only allow us to signpost those that reach out to us, to third-party organisations, such as the Samaritans.
I’m asking you the community, to help make a change. We can develop a service that allows any member of our global community to reach out, in their time of greatest need, and be heard.
We have a funding goal of £260,000 to enable a team of staff to provide the professional support our community so desperately needs. 1 in 4 of us will be directly affected by mental health related illnesses.
We’re openly asking big businesses to support small business. The freelancers, the solo business owners and those prepared to step out on their own, don’t have the same support networks in place as larger organisations. Big Orange Heart plans to become that missing level of support, but we need your help to get there.
There are organisations within our community already stepping up and recognising that mental health within our community needs better support. These companies have supported the production and distribution of this letter. Please join them.
We are colleagues, we are partners, we are friends, we are the WordPress community.
Together we can #PressForward
With kinds regards to you all in our community,
Dan MabyTrustee, Big Orange Heart
Giles Hales-TookeTrustee, Big Orange Heart
Peter FoyTrustee, Big Orange Heart
This open-letter to the WordPress community is also supported by:
Laura NelsonMarketing Manager, Pragmatic
Tim BowersCOO, WPMU DEV
Jo WalthamDirector, Callia Web
Neil GilmourDirector, Motional
Bet HannonOwner, Bet Hannon Business Websites
Representing as individuals and supported by:
WordPress Platform Lead, 34SP.com
Lead Developer, Kuachi