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Entrepreneurs: Depression and You

by Miki Saxon

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/_148239.pdfIn 2011 I wrote You Are Not a God citing the need for the same reminder to be given to entrepreneurs as the Romans gave their generals when they returned from a successful campaign.

That wisdom should be given all entrepreneurs. It should be drummed into their heads at all stages of the entrepreneurial process.

Why?

Because they aren’t.

And if they can be convinced that they aren’t they will be more likely to talk about what’s bothering them.

Of the 242 entrepreneurs he surveyed, 49% reported having a mental-health condition. Depression was the No. 1 reported condition among them and was present in 30% of all entrepreneurs [as opposed to the US population at large, where about 7% identify as depressed], followed by ADHD (29%) and anxiety problems (27%). (…)  More surprising was the incidence of mental health in the families of entrepreneurs: 72% said they either had mental-health problems themselves or in their immediate family.

Depression is not uncommon in the US, but add the indescribable pressures that are part and parcel of entrepreneurism and you can end up with a deadly brew.

One reason for the high suicide rate among entrepreneurs.

But there is another major reason, especially in places like Silicon Valley, where entrepreneurs are considered some kind of god.

When you are a member of a god-like crowd you are unlikely to talk about personal problems, especially if the problem would affect funding, hiring and eventual success.

What happens if you don’t talk about it and you don’t look for help?

It gets worse — and worse — and worse, until death starts looking like a good option.

Which is a very stupid attitude for very smart people to have.

“There’s lots of people who go through depression without access to support. We are not those people. What creates that barrier to support is that notion that a CEO is a strong, tough male figure who acts masculine and doesn’t ask for help or assistance.”

Knowing how entrepreneurs think, it’s not surprising that a partial solution takes the form of a startup by clinical psychologist Glen Moriarty.

Moriarty’s 7 Cups of Tea is a free, on-demand, internet-based anonymous listening network, which has a special section dedicated to listening to startup founders’ problems. Since launching the startup section, Moriarty estimated there have been more than 10,000 anonymous conversations.

Moriarty is pretty pragmatic.

“I don’t think there’s an outlet for much of society. I don’t think we’re doing a particularly awesome job caring for people in other professions either. It just happens that we care about startups.”

So if you or someone you know isn’t doing too well and not talking about it it is your responsibility to talk to them, share information/links and encourage them to start talking.

Be vulnerable, not superior and, whatever else you do, don’t brush it off with some version of “don’t worry; you’ll feel better when…”

You wouldn’t ignore it and let your friend drive drunk, so don’t ignore the possibilities of depression — even when everything seems to be going right.

We are all our brother’s keeper.

Flickr image credit: NIH

One Response to “Entrepreneurs: Depression and You”
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