Entrepreneurs are at a greater risk of experiencing mental health challenges than the general population. It has been reported that 62% of entrepreneurs report feeling depressed at least once a week, and 46% of entrepreneurs feel that their mental health interferes with their ability to work.
While admired for their ambition and tenacity, many founders grapple with pressure and uncertainty behind the scenes. Entrepreneurship can be personally, professionally, financially and relationally straining and sometimes, this strain can feel insurmountable.
In general, how has your journey as an entrepreneur impacted your mental health?
Bukky: “Oh my, it has tremendously. The level of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty is quite insane. You don't know what is going to break that needs fixing, what mistakes or errors the team or you may make and sometimes you worry before the problem happens.”
Kamala: “Overall, the impact has been neutral. I think this is because many of the stressors are similar to being a researcher in academia. Rejection, competing priorities and managing conflicts are all part and parcel as both an academic researcher and as an entrepreneur.”
What has been the most mentally challenging part of your entrepreneurship journey?
Bukky: “Having employees and knowing you are financially responsible for them. You carry the burden that these people depend on you, the thought alone is scary. The end of the month blues when payroll is due as a bootstrapped company is real.”
Kamala: “It is easy to fall into the mindset that you are alone and one of the hardest parts of this journey has been working to find a community. Joining programs with other founders helped me to realize that there was a community of others also experiencing similar challenges.”
What are some tools/techniques you have used to overcome mental health challenges that you have experienced over the course of your careers?
Bukky: “I have seasonal breaks when I tune out completely no matter what is going on. For instance, in May, I took every weekend off, a rarity in the startup world, but it was the only way I could recover from the back-to-back hustle of entrepreneurship. I achieved less in some sense, but also more. I realize when I take these breaks, I usually am more focused and alert when I do work or return to work.”
Kamala: “As stated, actively seeking out programs that put founders first and support them has been a huge help! In addition, I personally seek peace in nature as well as with my family (my spouse and my dog). Finding support networks completely unrelated to work has also been a strategy I’ve used to manage stress and burnout. I also have sought help through one-on-one therapy to help me with specific challenges.”
Supporting entrepreneur mental health
Collectively Tangled is a Calgary-born company that specializes in providing mental health support to the startup and innovation sector. Founded by registered social workers Keara Gillis and Sarah Mateshaytis, Collectively Tangled provides mental health services, education, and consulting tailored specifically to the startup community. Their vision extends beyond temporary solutions, with the primary goal of bridging the gap between mental health challenges and the education and support required to overcome them.
“At Collectively Tangled, systems change is at the core of what we do. Founded by social workers, our aim is to create a culture within the innovation landscape where entrepreneurs and community leaders honour and recognize mental health as an essential aspect of entrepreneurial success. Creating that cultural shift is important to us — we’re not here to put bandaids on things,” says Keara and Sarah.
As part of the Platform Incubator, founders are directly supported by the services offered by Collectively Tangled. By embedding access to mental health resources in the Platform Incubator, we are normalizing discussions around mental health, reducing the stigma associated with seeking support. This encourages entrepreneurs to prioritize their mental well-being, fostering a healthier and more inclusive startup ecosystem.
If founders want more support, Collectively Tangled makes sure they receive the services they need. They offer confidential mental health counselling specific to the needs of individuals in the startup and innovation sector. In the fall, they will also be launching online courses, providing an affordable and accessible way for founders to access skills and knowledge to better their mental health. To learn more about the resources available, You can reach out to them directly here.
Some other community organizations for mental health support that Sarah and Keara recommend include the Distress Centre, the Calgary Counselling Centre and Kindred. They also recommend that entrepreneurs make use of counselling services through a private practice clinician (psychologist, social worker, or Canadian Certified Counsellor) which can be found through Psychology Today, a helpful resource for connecting those in need with private practice therapists.
“First of all, recognizing that you need support is a huge first step, so kudos to you. If you do require mental health support, reach out! You are not alone in your struggle and you don’t have to put your head down and push through. Help is out there, and things can get better,” says Keara and Sarah.
“These resources have helped me reconnect with my needs, rebuild relationships, and develop the skills to be the best version of myself. Mental health resources should be available to all,” he says.
Entrepreneurship can be tough, but by acknowledging the importance of mental health and seeking help through organizations like Collectively Tangled, it can be just a little bit easier. So, let’s change the narrative around entrepreneur mental health and make it a priority to seek support, embrace rest, and put our mental well-being first.Back