Startups have an authenticity problem. It’s affecting business performance and risking the lives of the people who work within them. Our health isn’t skin deep, and to foster greater engagement and literacy around mental health issues, we need to invest more resources into creating open environments in our workplaces.
To start, let’s explore the traits of a successful entrepreneur. Nine out of ten articles agree that to succeed as an entrepreneur, one needs to be a natural promoter, an expert at networking, manage money well, be adaptable, passionate, understand failure, crave learning, be confident, take risks, and of course — have no small amount of determination. What is often missing, that threatens both success in the world of business and life itself, is emotional openness.
People make decisions based on data, so here is the science. According to a study by Dr. Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are fifty percent more likely to report having a mental health condition. Compared to national averages, founders are:
Two times more likely to suffer from depression
Three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse
Ten times more likely to suffer from Bipolar Disorder
Two times more likely to have psychiatric hospitalization
Two times more likely to have suicidal thoughts
Our ability as people to feel drives us creatively. It’s how we think differently and solve global challenges. These statistics aren’t a sign of weakness. Instead, this data represents the cognitive diversity within our workplaces.
According to Simon Sinek, we invoke action when we focus on the why. Last week, I stood before 100 of my peers, many of whom are dedicated to social change, and shared the gritty truth. For over ten years of my childhood, I endured physical and sexual abuse. At the age of twenty, I received a diagnosis of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), due to the trauma I’d experienced. During recovery, I faced numerous hardships including financial barriers, social stigma, and access to care — all of which are still prevalent today. Having experienced these challenges, I was compelled to become a part of the solution.
Speakbox allows all people the ability to manage their mental health record. Through a cloud-based platform, people can seamlessly collaborate with their care providers while becoming leaders in living well with access to better data for more informed health decisions. From my own experience with mental illness, Speakbox is driven to live in a world with unobstructed access to health care.
The world needs startups — innovative people who wish to make the world a better place. To achieve this in mental health, it’s imperative we address all the health needs of our leaders and the teams they serve. You can’t rely on policy or benefits alone to improve mental health in the workplace. Healthy workplaces grow when we create space for authenticity, trust, and openness.
It’s never too early to prioritize a healthy workplace, and never too late to make a change for the better. Start by:
Scheduling healthy activities alongside business development
Maintain health insurance coverage, and be diligent about accessing psychological support before you’re in crisis.
Stay connected — network to benefit your health and your business. Social connectedness is a significant component of good mental health.
Investors, advisors, and mentors — invest in the wellbeing of the founders you support:
Encourage leaders to develop a wellness plan
Create space for founders to prioritize health; happier founders are 12% more productive - Lead by example, make whole health part of your vernacular
You are disruptors, change-makers who defy norms in pursuit of a better future. It’s time we extend that passion for change to include taking care of ourselves and our teams. Poor mental health is a leading health concern amongst young people. It doesn’t have to be complicated, create space for mental health by starting a conversation and inviting others to share ideas on what mental health means to them. We’re all in this together. No matter your industry, we can all benefit from a mentally healthy workplace.
Aidan Scott is Co-Founder of Speakbox. After experiencing several challenges attempting to access care after being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by childhood trauma. Aidan's experience, reinforced by his experiences working in the public health sector has inspired him to seek out new ways to reduce barriers and improve access to mental health care using technology.