Work-life has always brought along with it issues like excessive anxiety, lifestyle disorders, insomnia, depression, and loneliness, leading to self-doubt and self-harm. However, the global pandemic and the lockdown have brought these problems to the fore. In addition, the work from home culture, social distancing, and self-isolation has made it more evident than ever that serious attention needs to be paid to one’s mental health. And the problem of declining mental health is growing more amongst entrepreneurs. Sometimes, the most creative and brilliant amongst us are the most troubled. And nowhere else is this more visible than in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The mental health epidemic is for real. The figures are alarming. 1 out of every 5 Indians is suffering from a mental health disorder. Almost 50% of entrepreneurial India is under debilitating stress. About 30% of these people report cases of addiction and marital discord, and 20% of them are victims of depression. Overall, 57 million Indians are affected by depression, and 36% are much likely to fall prey to a mental health ailment at some point in their lives. There is a need for a robust discourse around mental health that is even acted upon.
The Mental Health Crisis in Startups
An entrepreneur is described as someone who passionately and innovatively pursues a novel idea from conceptualization to actualization as a result of a need or challenge discovered in the market. Global thought leaders recognize the extraordinary value that startups add to job creation, economic development, and the commercialization of creativity.
But such impeccable performance comes at the cost of these founders’ mental health. Entrepreneurs are trained to be stoic and ignore the qualitative needs of their wellbeing, measured in meaningful relationships and overall happiness and life satisfaction. They are driven by the idea that success is purely measured in profits, quantitative returns, and return on investment. This causes an irreversible mental breakdown in many cases.
The Action Plan to Extend Mental Health Support
Only creating ‘mental health in the workplace’ policy on an ad hoc basis does not achieve the purpose. organizations need to think seriously about prevention and response relating to a variety of possible illnesses and scenarios. We need a culture change. And some steps in this direction can be:
Open communication and showing support for founders can be a positive endeavor in this direction. Investors can lead by example and let founders know that it’s okay to be vulnerable and talk about the mental health challenges that they are facing. Founders need to discuss their journey, and that includes opening about the hardships as well that they have had to go through to bring their initiative to fruition.
It’s often forgotten how financially constrained most founders are. Just because they have raised millions in recent funding does not necessarily mean they have the personal capital to seek help and support. Some portion of the financing rounds must be earmarked for the founders themselves. Investors must encourage founders to invest in their wellbeing and development.
Remember the Mind-Body Connection
Mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing are all closely linked to one another. Just as mental health issues result in substance abuse, a lack of adequate physical exercise or nutrition can also lead to a disturbed state of mind. Hence, entrepreneurs must indulge in physical activity of their choice, eat well, and consider doing yoga or meditation.
Build Personal Connections
Founders need to maintain a support network for themselves. They can either join a peer network, engage with old friend circles, go out on a date or family nights, and even make new friends. This will help them take the pressure off their minds and ensure that they have a life outside their work.
Set Priorities and Not Tasks
Instead of a task list, entrepreneurs must prepare a daily priorities list where only the essential and urgent items are listed. Finishing these items may be more demanding, but getting them done is more satisfying.
Entrepreneurs and their employees must know the warning signs of depression and other mental health disorders. Those who suffer from these ailments never reach out for help; instead, they drown in them. Hence, people around need to keep a watch for the signs and call out when required.
Organizations must also have a mental health counsellor in the organization who can conduct training sessions to help the workforce deal with stress as well as for counselling those tackling mental health challenges.
Summing it up
The geopolitical climate is of a volatile nature. Within this, the startups are striving to add social and economic value. Hence, it is critical that the valuations of an entrepreneur’s success include qualitative measures of sound mental health in addition to quantitative measures of a high return on investment.