In 2018, after being inspired by my own mental health challenges that stemmed from the pressures of running multiple businesses, I launched a campaign called 100 Stories of Growth, where I spoke with over 100 UK business founders about their experiences of launching, and running a business, to help raise awareness of mental health issues in the business community.
Career impact on mental health
Up until that point, I was well aware that the UK was facing a mental health crisis, and from conversations with some of my peers, I knew that the entrepreneurial community was particularly susceptible to periods of heightened stress and anxiety.
However, I was surprised to learn the extent to which entrepreneurs suffered as a direct result of their careers.
Of the 100 founders I spoke to, more than a quarter admitted their mental or emotional wellbeing had been negatively impacted as a result of starting their business. Even more worryingly, many had simply suffered in silence rather than tackle the issues head-on.
A further 53% said that growing their business was one of the toughest experiences of their life – something which I can personally attest to.
As part of the campaign, we also filmed four highly successful entrepreneurs talk candidly about their own personal challenges when pursuing their dreams. The results were incredibly poignant. But it’s reassuring to know that as a community of entrepreneurs we are not alone – other people face the same struggles.
Now, more than a year on from the launch of 100 Stories of Growth, there is still a job to be done in ensuring business founders have the right support they need.
That’s why I have just launched a revolutionary new initiative and UK kitemark for the investment community called Mindful Investor.
This future-facing programme will drive lasting change by measuring and improving wellbeing, diversity and inclusion within the investment community.
I want to create the most inclusive and supportive investment culture in the world, to benefit everyone working in ambitious UK businesses.
Ultimately, the aim behind the programme is to help create an investment eco-system where investors and investees can work in a more effective and productive way – putting people and profits on an equal footing by protecting the mental wellbeing of all involved.
We have partnered with some incredible organisations to help deliver support and training, including Mental Health First Aid England, Self Space, Harley Therapy and weare3sixty – all of which are doing amazing work to help mental health challenges in the workplace.
To encourage other entrepreneurs to start a conversation, here are some of their top tips for tackling issues head-on.
- When to start the conversation
Jodie Cariss, the founder of The Self Space, says:
“If you want to start conversations around mental health, it’s important to meet the person where they are at. Come from a place of empathy and curiosity. Ask yourself what do I notice and importantly what is not being said. Lots of people say one thing but are feeling something else – often people will say ‘I’m really excited’ but look terrified for example. Be genuine and natural with your dialogue. Be kind, interested and non-judgmental. ”
- Understand your triggers
Dr Sheri Jacobson, the founder of Harley Therapy, says:
“Try this experiment. Talk openly to someone you trust about your typical triggers, your dominant feeling, thoughts and behaviour for example anxiety, disappointment, shame or even physical triggers such as rashes. Although it can initially be uncomfortable it will increase awareness of your personal triggers so in the future you and your support network can manage them better.”
- Begin with the end in mind
Guy Tolhurst, the founder of Mindful Investor, says:
“Looking too far ahead can be daunting and anxiety-inducing in itself. So how can you make small adjustments based on where you are today? If things aren’t great for you right now, write down: (Good feels like… ) and fill in the blanks, and repeat to make a list. You can then decide what you do and don’t want to work on right now from your list, and when you’re ready – start with that.”
- Know that you are not alone
“Often, we feel afraid of perceived consequences and/or the stigma surrounding poor mental health, and so this can keep us silent when we need help the most. Through sharing your experience with a friend, or professional, you may often discover that others have had similar experiences and that although being vulnerable can feel painful initially, healing and solutions may be found once a conversation has begun.”