The most brilliant and creative people amongst us can also be the most troubled.
Founders & Mental Health
The entrepreneurial spirit is filled with fire to create and launch businesses; however, this spirit is also plagued with a silent but deadly issue called mental health. According to a study by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to experience a mental health condition.
2x more likely to suffer from depression
2x more likely to have suicidal thoughts
3x more likely to suffer from substance abuse
10X more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder
These issues tug at founder performance and the needs of the business. Depression and anxiety can contribute to burnout, toxic culture, employee turnover, and death. The perfect goal is to cultivate positive work environments and strive to reduce founders’ mental and emotional suffering. This is the right thing to do both for the human side and the business side.
Why is this such a problem?
Society shows business owners as someone that has their shit together. They’re strong, they’re dedicated, they’re the perfect people who are killing it in life. But the real story is that startup life and owning a business is one of the toughest experiences someone can go through.
Many founders are not ready for the struggle or success, nor do they know how to healthily manage it. One of the main trials founders aren’t prepared for is the financial risk and impact. Often times, founders go to friends and family or take out loans to raise money, but the weight of financial risk can lead to higher suicide rates and substance abuse issues.
Key to Success
As a founder myself, I have had moderate to severe depression before seeking help and support. I believe the key to strong company success is to address the mental health issues of owning a business. We are constantly reviewing spreadsheets, looking at cash flow, and payroll analysis – even in our sleep. So, what can we do to help ourselves and other founders?
Investors, banks, company executives need to take mental health seriously and be able to talk about it openly. This should be communicated weekly, much as you would with a cash flow statement. We need to include a line item in the P&L for wellness and self-care. Many founders are financially strapped, and people easily forget this. Just because a company may have closed new business or raised new capital doesn’t mean founders have access to personal capital to seek help and support.
It is time to be diligent and learn the warning signs of depression and burnout. The founders who are drowning in their own anxiety and fear will not be waving their hands for help.
The key to all of this is to support one another. Take our heads out of our smartphones and take a walk with another founder to have connections. The ability to recognize and support these silent but deadly issues will allow us to have a more sustainable entrepreneurial foundation. Don’t forget to keep your employees in-mind, mental health can affect anyone. Remember, help is out there, and no matter what you are going through personally, someone else has been down the same road as you.