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Leaders, Entrepreneurs And Mental Health Beyond COVID-19

By DrDr Adrienna Ember (PhD Psych. PhD Eu.St.)

Clinical Psychologist/Personal Development Strategist

Effective leaders are often described as people of charisma and vision with excellent interpersonal and stress management skills. While most of these skills are learnable, sustaining them against the daily stresses of life often becomes neglected. The World Health Organization predicts that mental illness will be the leading cause of disability and absence in the workplace by 2030 if it is not proactively addressed. An international research conducted pre-COVID-19 times (BUPA, 2018) suggested that:

* 64% of business leaders suffered from mental health conditions such anxiety, stress, and depression.

* 58% of business leaders said that in their position it is hard to talk about mental health.

* 1 in 4 felt less support for mental health issues since becoming more senior.

* Leaders feared that talking about mental health would affect perceptions of their capabilities and career prospects.

Due to the economic pressure, personal worries, and uncertainties we face at present, it is fair to assume that the levels of stress and anxiety entrepreneurs and leaders experience are and will continue to grow far beyond what they are used to. Decisions made in such state of mind are often sub-optimal, which, as a catch-22, further maintain self-doubt, worries and anxiety. Despite stricter workplace related mental health and safety regulations globally, leaders still perceive addressing their own mental health problems as a sign of weakness. Their struggles often only become apparent once they manifest in physical illnesses, such as diabetes, various forms of addictions, stroke, or heart attack. Social relationships suffer greatly by increasing bullying behaviour at workplaces and strained relationships with loves ones at home.

Most of the leaders and entrepreneurs I encounter in my practice are referred to me by their GPs or the hospital with already significant and longstanding physical and mental health problems, sadly often accompanied by suicidal thoughts. Considering how much time and budget leaders and entrepreneurs invest into the maintenance and growth of their businesses, their own personal well-being is greatly neglected. While many of my burnt-out clients attended costly leadership trainings or life coaching sessions in the past, the function of these services is not to address personal struggles at a deep enough level, that would allow recovery from past adverse events and provide a basis for long-term personal growth and transformation.

If you feel overwhelmed, as a responsible entrepreneur, do not hesitate to reach out for professional help not only for your business but for yourself as well. You do not need to feel ‘bad enough’ to receive support: talking through current stress factors early on and receiving help with identifying certain unhelpful thinking or behavioral patterns are often enough to prevent life spiraling out of control. To be able to take care of your loved ones and your business in the long term, do not forget take care of yourself. Stay well!


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