We are very familiar with workplace stress and burnout, and hopefully, those of us employing people take all the necessary steps to limit this. But we don't often stop to talk about how the founders feel. It can be a stressful role at the best of times, and 2020 has been especially fraught. Startups are hard, and running a small business can be lonely and all-consuming. It can feel impossible to separate the self from the company, and every 'no' or loss feels like a personal rejection and failure. The weight of responsibility feels enormous and doesn't stop when you leave work for the night if you even manage to leave work for the night.

Back in 2015, Michael A Freeman published a detailed report called Are Entrepreneurs “Touched with Fire”?. His objective? 'To investigate the prevalence and characteristics of mental health conditions among entrepreneurs and their first-degree family members.'

Using a sample of 242 entrepreneurs and 93 demographically matched comparison participants, he assessed the differences between the two groups and found that 72% of the entrepreneurs had self-reported mental health concerns. This proportion was much higher than that of the comparison group.

His results showed that small business owners were:

  • Twice as likely to suffer from depression
  • Three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse
  • Twice as likely to have a psychiatric hospitalisation
  • Twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts

I'm no psychiatrist, but I have been a founder for longer than I care to remember now, and I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed. If you are feeling depressed, anxious or any other kind of 'not ok'... talk about it. Friends and family, a therapist, online support groups... it doesn't matter - open up and keep on talking about it. Make your mental health a priority, and take some time to think about how you can reduce the negative feelings you are experiencing.

Over the coming months, I will be looking at different aspects of mental health and how it relates to small business owners using the tag #MentalHealthToolKit.

I hope nobody reading this needs any of the following information, but if you need medical help, visit your GP. If you are having any thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the Samaritans on 116123. If you are concerned about debt, contact the business debt line on 0800 197 6026.

Further Reading:
Mental Health Toolkit #1 - 3 Ways To Fight Overwhelm