Startup Founders Struggle with Mental Health Issues
The rise of mental health issues has been on the rise lately and blessed are you if you have someone to talk to who can actually help or you belong to a community of people you can draw strength from, or you have built a system where you can get help on-the-go.
This post is dedicated to startup founders, those guys who are working their asses off to build solutions to better our lives.
Kristen Cooper wrote In The Workplace; “Mental health is often ignored while starting up a company. There’s just too much to do. Founders and investors are focused on getting a product to market and securing a return on investment.”
Most startup founders don’t know where to seek help while some know but don’t want to come across as weak when they let someone know their struggles.
There have been cases where death had to happen because of this act, while some only had to come open with this struggle either after a failure or they’ve hit some milestones of massive success.
At this year’s Web Summit 2018 at Lisbon, the founder of Reddit – Alexis Ohanian talked about “Hustle Porn”. He talked about how he battled depression while he built Reddit.
In his own words; “This is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now,” he says. “This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough.”
On a medium post, he wrote; “As entrepreneurs, we are all so busy “crushing it” that physical health, let alone mental health, is an afterthought for most founders. It took me years to realize that the way I was feeling— when working on Reddit was the only therapy I had — was depression.”
The tech sector is built on bright minds developing new solutions to create economic or social impact.
In Africa, we do not have enough data on startup founders and their battle with mental stress and illness, maybe we don’t have because we do not ask.
The World Health Organization (WHO) facts about mental health:
- Depression alone accounts for 4.3% of the burden of disease – with more than 350 million people all ages suffering from it – and is among the largest single causes of disability worldwide, particularly for women.
- To describe the current accessibility of mental health services in Africa as deficient would be a gross understatement. Almost half of the world’s population lives in countries where there is only one psychiatrist to 200,000 or more people, according to the WHO. Ninety percent of African countries have less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people.
- Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental health problems.
- About 800,000 people commit suicide every year.
- Wars and disasters have a huge impact on mental health
- Mental disorders increase the risk of getting ill from other diseases such as HIV, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and vice versa.
- In Africa, human rights violations of people with mental and psychosocial disability are common.
Are Entrepreneurs Touched with Fire?
That was the heading of a 2015 study by Dr Michael Freeman.
In the 2015 survey by Dr Michael Freeman where he surveyed 242 entrepreneurs, 49% reported having a mental-health condition.
Depression was the No. 1 reported condition among them and was present in 30% of all entrepreneurs, followed by ADHD (29%) and anxiety problems (27%).
That’s a much higher percentage than the US population at large, where only about 7% identify as depressed.
“I think the crazy dynamic range puts a lot of pressure on founders. People’s expectations of themselves get so high because the top is so high,” said Y Combinator’s Sam Altman. “The culture of ‘I’m crushing it, bro’ is not that helpful.” (Business Insider)
Startup Founders and Mental Health – What you can do
The stigma around mental health in the tech sector (and society as a whole) isn’t an easy problem to solve, nor should we pretend like it is.
Jide Chudeonwo, co-founder of RED – a media company he co-founded with Debola Williams. After successfully stirring the company to growth and profitability launched Joy, Inc – a company that helps more people find joy in life.
He said, “Joy, Inc. was incubated during his time at Yale (on a World Fellowship in the Fall of 2017) and based on my research there.” (Link)
In a Forbes post by Abdullah Snobal, Executive Director of DMZ – a tech accelerator. Snobal has this to say;
“At the DMZ, we see that many entrepreneurs are still not talking openly about their mental well-being. And these challenges aren’t special to our organization. Mental health concerns in tech entrepreneurship are often referred to as “founder’s blues.”
So, how can a startup founder save himself from mental health issues and not let it destroy his happy days and cause him regrets later in life?
As a startup founder, here are 4 tips you can follow when you find yourself in the ‘founder’s blues’:
– Understand mental health. According to Kristen Cooper, “Mental illness is a medical problem. No one should be ashamed of mental illness. mental illnesses “are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behaviour (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” There is a wide range of mental illnesses, and symptoms should be discussed with doctors and psychotherapists. Founders can help employees by making a list of psychotherapy providers covered by the company’s health plan and sharing it with them.”
– Be honest. Abdullah Snobal has a better advice for you “
That starts with exercise and wellness for your body and your mind. Moderate the garbage you’re putting into your body and commit yourself to a healthy routine — you don’t need any equipment to do a wide range of bodyweight exercises or go for a run. Founders especially will forget this because we’re so busy out-grinding one another.”
Following the advice of Sammy Courtright, co-founder of Fitspot Wellness, here is some strategy to stay healthy and sane while you run your startup:
+ Stretch it out
+ Meditate in the morning
+ Hire a coach
+ Schedule regular workouts
+ Write daily to-do lists
+ Delegate as much as possible
+ Surround yourself with smart people
+ Order what you can online
+ Meal prep on Sundays
+ Get a standing desk
+ Schedule monthly dinners
+ Watch a good show – Netflix, Iroko TV, Kwese TV etc.
Remember, when you’re healthier you will be happier.
You’ve got one life remaining, don’t squander it. – Alexis Ohanian
The Spice Network @2018