Helping business owners with mental health issues, Start Small but Dream Big
Mental health and the self-employed
I apologise for the serious tone of this article. However, as a blog that focuses specifically on entrepreneurs with mental health issues, I wanted to look at the background and put together some facts and figures. It has proved interesting and eye opening.
Mental health and entrepreneurs
While it may seem counterintuitive that people struggling with their mental health would take on the challenges associated with running a business, research (linked here) shows that 49% of entrepreneurs are managing at least one mental health problem, including ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, depression, or anxiety, with around a third experiencing two or more. So, basically, we’re in good company.
And although, again, it might seem like those those health issues would prove a hindrance, evidence shows that they can actually be a driver for success. There is a common belief in psychology that entrepreneurs tend to be at the high end of the creativity scale, and that creative people are more genetically disposed to mental health problems, discussed here. Those suffering with mental health problems, tend to be more adaptive, as we learn how to manage them in a world that still doesn’t provide adequate support. In addition, the symptoms of individual conditions can offer advantages in some ways:
- ADD/ADHD – fast decision making, energy, work independently
- Anxiety – drive to succeed
- Bipolar – creativity, energy, often charismatic
- Depression – realistic expectations, empathy and creativity
- OCD – attention to detail
An estimated one in four people will suffer mental health problems during their lifetime. The World Health Organisation believes that around 450 million people worldwide are currently affected, making it one of the leading health problems globally. In the UK alone, 70 million working days are lost each year. This, combined with lower productivity costs the economy approximately £105 billion per annum.
Despite this, research has shown that around two thirds of those experiencing mental health problems do not seek treatment. This is at least partly due to the stigma that still surrounds psychological and psychiatric conditions. Many businesses and organisations request medical information from new hires, which can deter people from seeking help, fearful that they may be discriminated against. Companies can also be reluctant to employ people disclosing mental health problems, worried that they will be unreliable, disruptive, or even dangerous.
For people with mental health problems, working for others can prove to be extremely stressful. While they often manage their work and workload, the challenges of hiding their condition, enforced interaction with others, and having to fit within a prescribed schedule can prove to be overwhelming. Money and mental health are also closely entwined. If people are unable to work because of health issues, it is likely that they will suffer financially. Financial problems and concerns about money contribute to poorer mental health. It is a vicious circle
However, while those dealing with mental health problems may struggle with the overall package of work, working can often provide a structure and routine, which can be motivating, and provide and help support confidence and a sense of wellbeing. This is one reason that so many people with mental health problems go into business.
Benefits of self-employment
For those managing psychological or psychiatric conditions, self employment offers a number of benefits:
- Ability to set your own hours and workload
- Ability to take time out when needed
- Ability to manage the amount of contact with others
That’s not to say that it’s always easy. It also presents a number of challenges to overcome:
- Getting work, which requires having to pitch or bid for work
- Self confidence and not underestimating your own worth
- An inconsistent income
- It can be isolating
But, as evidence shows, many entrepreneurs successfully manage their conditions and run profitable businesses. You can be one of them too.