How Can Entrepreneurs Fight Depression On World Mental Health Day, it is important to talk about the thin line that differentiates stress from depression and help entrepreneurs seek help where needed

By Sanchita Dash

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They walk into meetings on time, they laugh during the lunch break and they even hang out with the team after work! These seeming signs would give you the impression that start-up founders are sorted in their heads. But many a time, these are just masks for the bigger worries that lie within an entrepreneur.

A failed venture, personal life gone for a toss or the pressure of living up to the expectations of his or her employees, an entrepreneur has a zillion problems. The situation gets worse when he/she feels that it's not just about facing the problems alone, but also finding solutions for them. It's in such trying times that the entrepreneur remains sunk in gloom for days together slowly slips into the dark world of depression.

On World Mental Health Day, it is important that we talk about entrepreneurs who are dealing with depression. Walking on a thin line between stress and depression, it is important for entrepreneurs to identify the difference and seek help where needed.

The Causes

A number of reasons work together to thrust an entrepreneur into the realms of depression. Having invested all they had in their idea, the pressures are high and when the venture begins to crumble, it hits them badly. Dr Pulkit Sharma, a psychologist, has had entrepreneurs walking into his clinic for various reasons. While stress and burn out are two of the major reasons why entrepreneurs get depressed, Dr Sharma had a few more reasons to throw light on. "Fear of failure or rather sensitivity towards failure is very high among entrepreneurs. They have people working under them and their judgment is another factor. An entrepreneur also takes bold risks financially that gives him or her increased sense of vulnerability," he added.

The Symptoms

Start-ups, too, have ventured out to support not just entrepreneurs in such situations but in fact, everyone who's dealing with depression. YourDost, an emotional well-being platform, has also had numerous entrepreneurs reaching out to them as they face lack of coordination, teamwork, and understanding among employees. Another major reason is the lack of support from family.

Aditya Sisodia, Expert and Career Coach at YourDOST, listed out a few symptoms of depression among entrepreneurs. "They find it difficult to express their thoughts and feelings. It becomes difficult for them to align employees' interests with the company objective and they start feeling that employees are there only to spend money. Plagued by a constant feeling of irritation and frustration, they have a tendency to avoid social interaction," he said.

The Help

Jody Sherman, Founder of ecomm, committed suicide and not many knew about the situation. It was only after his death that people came to know that the company's liabilities were greater than its assets. Friends have revealed there was a concept of public shame associated with it.

While there are many cases like this, it is the public humiliation that is the most common reason behind it all.

It is important that the entrepreneur reaches out for help before the situation gets worse. Vikram Beri, Founder of Betterlyf, said, "Entrepreneurs come to us because they have a failed venture and are unable to move on with life. They have a low self-image and consider themselves to be failures. We challenge these thoughts and visit their past achievements to bring back their confidence. Start-up failure is like grieving the loss of the loved one. One has to learn the coping strategies."

While organizing workshops or seminars on mental health awareness, Dr Sharma has often noticed that it is juniors at work who show up for the programs. And that needs to change as entrepreneurs need to step out and acknowledge this issue.

It is most important for an entrepreneur to remember that he/she is just a human and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Dr Sharma said founders often take on too much work, more than what they can manage and thus end up feeling helpless. "They need to maintain a work-life balance. Time to unwind should be a part of their daily routine and when they do come across failures, they shouldn't take it to heart. Encouraging co-operation among team members is the key to handling their tasks well," he said.

Sanchita Dash

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

In the business of news for 5 years now. Making my way across India thanks to my career. A media graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, I have earlier worked with Deccan Chronicle (South India's leading English daily), T-Hub (India's largest incubator) and Anthill Ventures (a speed-scaling platform). 

Stories, movies and PJs are my thing. 

If you hear 'The Office' opening score randomly, don't worry it's just my phone ringing. 


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