Since 2018, I’ve been administering an economic pilot to help marginalized groups find high-tech careers. Soon after I began, it became clear that mental health challenges were a critical factor for the participants. For instance, we had two single mothers in the program who were aspiring computer programmers in Silicon Valley. One ended up with a high-paying job at a household name company while the other struggled to get her first internship. When I investigated the difference between the two, I learned that the successful participant had been getting subsidized mental health care, which she skillfully cobbled together from disparate local resources available for single mothers.

“On my way into tech, mental health services impacted how I would learn and soak in the information needed to do my current job…with the intensity of the stress that came with doing a bootcamp while post-homeless, divorcing and juggling two small children, I began to experience episodes and sought medication to alleviate the symptoms,” the participant told me. “Advocating for myself and being open about my experience during bootcamp made things smoother and less weighted, compared to if I had navigated my stressors and accommodations alone.”

It was stories like these that convinced me to reprioritize our economic pilot to mental health innovation. Depression, anxiety and stress exacerbated by the pandemic were holding back our participants from breaking into the tech sector. While there was plenty of philanthropy flowing toward vocational training, I found that these well-funded training centers were still overburdened with mental health challenges. Students would come to administrators for help, but the school staff wasn’t equipped to offer resources.

So, I offered our partner schools financial assistance to any student looking for mental health services. From one school, I was told that each person we offered support to had either gotten a job or were in the process of getting an offer.

Read the full article about mental health innovation by Gregory Ferenstein at Brookings.