Lifting the lid on depression in entrepreneurs
Just before Christmas a highly regarded tech entrepreneur in Manchester committed suicide.
His name is well known but out of respect to his family I don’t want to discuss it publicly in this column.
Instead I would like to use the tragedy to talk about a much wider problem: depression in business and especially in entrepreneurs.
I read a survey recently which really shocked me. Apparently 49 per cent of 242 entrepreneurs quizzed said they had a mental health condition, with depression being top of the list.
With this in mind my BusinessCloud colleague Ian Hughes went to a Pro-Manchester event at Deloitte on Tuesday entitled ‘Managing Stress and Building Resilience’.
The event opened with a speech by the charity Time To Change, which is dedicated to ending mental health discrimination.
Coordinator Darren Bee said: “One in four people will experience a mental health problem every year, and 90 per cent of these people will experience some kind of stigma in the workplace.
"That includes people being stigmatised as well as those being exposed to some kind of discrimination.”
A panel of experts then shared their own experiences with the audience, including serial entrepreneur and my good friend Vikas Shah.
I interviewed Vikas in a previous job at an entrepreneurship breakfast in 2015 when he spoke about his own battle with depression and disclosed he’d made a number of “half-baked” suicide attempts.
As he spoke you could have heard a pin drop in the room so I wrote a blog about it. To my surprise several prominent people contacted me privately afterwards to talk about their own battle with depression.
The tragedy is, there remains a stigma about mental health and depression in particular. For some it’s perceived as a sign of weaknesses so too many people suffer in silence - and that’s the real tragedy.
Employers need to be open-minded and we need to encourage people to talk about how they feel.
Just in the course of researching this column I’ve read six stories of entrepreneurs who killed themselves for a variety of reasons.
Many of their friends said they had no idea the individuals in question were even depressed - and that’s perhaps the hardest thing of them all.