We Need to Talk About Mental Health and Entrepreneurs

Time to stop the stigma.

As today is #WorldHealthDay and this year’s focus is on depression, would it surprise you to learn that entrepreneurs have a higher risk of depression than the general population?

A study by the University of California explored the mental health of entrepreneurs to a comparison group.

What they found was astounding — 49% of entrepreneurs have a mental illness/history compared to 32% of the control group.

A further 23% had a family member with mental health issues/history vs 16% in the control group.

***That means 72% of entrepreneurs in the study were directly or indirectly affected by mental health conditions***

Mental health conditions like depression (30%), Anxiety (27%), ADHD (29%), alcohol/drug dependency/abuse (12%) and bipolar disorder (11%).

We entrepreneurs tend to be more sensitive to our environments.

This is what makes us step up and want to change the world in some way.

This is what drives us to become entrepreneurs in the first place — yet this sensitivity can also be our downfall.

Dr Michael Freeman, who led the research said:

“People on the energetic, motivated and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states, including depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation and suicidal thinking”.

There’s a body of research that supports that the traits of an entrepreneur — such as creativity, insightfulness, empathy and problem solving — are the upside of being predisposed to mental health conditions (every cloud has a silver lining?).

Building a business is challenging and is very likely to contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

On top of that, many of us feel isolated as we work alone at home — and disconnection / isolation is one of the main causes and drivers of mental health conditions.

There’s a reason why tribes isolate members as punishment. It’s because humans are wired for connection and cannot thrive without it!

What saddens me most is that mental health conditions are so stigmatised, that most who suffer them hide their struggles for fear of judgement.

Yet given depression is soon to be the number one cause of chronic illness in the world, debilitating millions of people, we need to shake off this ridiculous belief that these conditions are a sign of weakness, and put the focus where it needs to be — helping people to heal.

And connection is the first step.

So if you’re struggling with mental health issues, first know that you’re not alone, and likely in very good company among many other talented entrepreneurs.

If you’re hiding away, I urge you to reach out to a friend or family member for support.

If you’re stuck on what to say, how about this:

‘You know how I’m incredibly creative, insightful and talented? Well these talents sometimes make me experience depression / anxiety / ADHD. And today I’m struggling a little’.

Perhaps this approach will go some way towards lifting the stigma.

If you know someone who has a mental health condition, reach out to them today. Ask how they’re doing.

Tell them you’re there for them.

No one needs to go through dark times alone.

Originally published at medium.com

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