Research suggests entrepreneurs at greater risk of poor mental health

Sep 29, 2015

One of the co-founders of a start-up company gives an honest account of living with generalised anxiety disorder and recurrent depression, and the impact it had on his work.

Entrepreneur David Hardman reveals how running his business started consuming him, bringing with it a mix of highs and lows. In this piece David expresses that when his start-up was in trouble he felt listless, unmotivated and exhausted.

‘’My depression was gaining a greater hold on me every day and I stopped wanting to come to work entirely. And worst of all, I couldn’t find those small moments of enjoyment and pride in the direction my fledgling start-up was taking,’’ he said.

Research by psychiatrist and entrepreneur Michael A. Freeman suggests that entrepreneurial people are energetic, motivated and creative, and it’s these traits that make them more prone to strong emotional states such as depression, hopelessness, worthlessness and loss of motivation.

David said his own experience illustrates the power a good or poor mental state can have on entrepreneurs.

‘’When it’s good, it’s amazing and exhilarating, but when it’s bad, it’s exhausting and heartbreaking. Such polarised emotional states can really take their toll on both an individual and a company, which is why I fully support formal and informal support networks for entrepreneurs,’’ he added.

Through his experience David believes an important addition to business plans is a focus on maintaining a positive mental state. He also took the step of arranging Entrepreneurs Anonymous events, which provide a forum for start-up founders to express their fears and insecurities in a supportive environment.

For others experiencing similar challenges David suggests:

  • Seeking help – from family and friends, a doctor, and importantly, other entrepreneurs.
  • Ensuring that you have a healthy and robust support network around you, especially if you have a personal or family history of mental health conditions.
  • Remembering that your frame of mind can and will change – you are not in an inescapable hole (as much as it may feel like it sometimes).
  • Understanding your own mental health needs will make you not only a more resilient entrepreneur, but a stronger person too.
Find out more about working with a mental health condition and staying mentally healthy at work on the Heads Up website.

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