“With each passing unnecessary death, the importance of mental health comes briefly into focus – but that focus lasts no longer than a news cycle and nothing changes.”
Between raising money, managing people, networking, making quotas, building a client base and constantly innovating, the treadmill never stops for entrepreneurs, leaving many feeling physically and emotionally drained.
It can be a very dark and isolating world trying to be the stoic leader guiding the ship while trying to live up to insurmountable expectations and maintain some semblance of a work-life balance. With substance abuse issues growing, incredible financial risks being taken and burnout rates increasing, make no mistake about it, the entrepreneurial ecosystem has a very real mental health problem.
We must take these issues seriously and we need to act.
Competition facilitates our cultural evolution – but when is it too much?
Technology is perhaps the most competitive industry of all. It is constantly evolving and disrupting and can be extremely stressful to defend a product or service in a cutthroat market that is continuously innovating.
Instagram shows us on that entrepreneurship is all jets, fancy dinners and living the high life on a remote beach. And in subscribing to this, we repeatedly fall victim to the fallacy of Survivorship Bias which actually distorts how we view successful entrepreneurs. We only see the ones that have survived and grew successful companies, but we don’t see the long road littered with failed companies or the personal struggles that go on behind the scenes.
The startup culture is hard and alienating, and depression among founders can be extremely damaging to a company from many different angles.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms
Many people believe that founder depression is caused by an increasingly complex and competitive world. When failure is a very real and likely outcome, marred by high risks and complexities to manage in order to stay afloat, the hits can take their toll on a founder, leading to loss of motivation and the inability to make important decisions
In fact, entrepreneurs are 50 percent more likely to report having a mental health condition. Some specific conditions are incredibly prevalent amongst founders, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and imposter syndrome, all of which take a cumulative deterioration on a founders’ performance.
Here are some of the internal conflicts an entrepreneur might be battling:
- Failed ventures and the inability to move on,
- Low self-esteem and feelings of shame, humiliation,
- Issues with a co-founder,
- Anxiety over increased competition,
- Inability to maintain a healthy work-life balance,
- Lack of social structure; support from family or friends.
Why are more tech workers depressed nowadays?
Mental health issues do not discriminate to just the tech industry, but it is very hard to ignore that burnout and stress is especially common in the fast-paced, competitive environment of technology companies.
Tech companies have a growing burnout problem among their workers that can’t be ignored anymore. So much so in fact that according to a survey of over 9,000 tech workers last year showed that half believe their work environment is unhealthy. This leads to increased employee turnover and an inability to hire top talent, which ultimately weakens their perception in the market.
Here are the three main sources of burnout among tech workers according to the study.
- Poor leadership
Arrogant and narcissistic bosses that promote fear in their workplaces are doing their people and product a great disservice and aren’t exactly promoting a positive culture when aiming to recruiting talent on the open market.
- Work overload
Employees feel disconnected from the company strategy in their roles, and are buried under an unreasonable amount of work.
- Toxic culture
If a founder is dealing with problems, it can seep down to the entire staff leading to an unhealthy work environment. Coupled with lack of collaboration and no support for learning and development, it can be a very stressful environment for workers to spend a great majority of their time in.
We can all play our part in this
“You may know these employees, work with them, or be one yourself. It’s an important issue to care about because the ripple effects are wide.”
As documented in a Forbes article, we need to “acknowledge that the problem exists. Employee burnout is real, and all are at risk for this problem.” Having wellness initiatives, access to mental health professionals, counselling resources and by promoting an inclusive and transparent work environment will empower workers for the better.
It’s easy to discuss the financial implications of ignoring this, but the moral aspect of ignoring serious mental health concerns far outweighs a company’s bottom line. Every second, every minute, and every day, someone is impacted by mental illness, and mental health affects us all.
Bell Let’s Talk is an incredible initiative dedicated to moving mental health forward in Canada. Now in its ninth year, and having donated over $93 million to mental health programs, the numbers speak volumes about the urgent need for action.
Bell Let’s Talk promotes awareness and action with a strategy built on 4 key pillars: Fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting world-class research and leading by example in workplace mental health.
We are all in this thing together, and we can all take action.