72% of entrepreneurs suffer from mental health issues

Published Oct 10, 2022


Johannesburg – Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted, it requires having the courage to take on challenges and take risks, without the guarantee of success.

It takes self-belief, commitment, and mental fortitude. Being an entrepreneur is taxing in so many various ways. The challenges are constant whether it is raising capital, customer queries, managing staff or inconsistent income.

South African entrepreneurs in particular face added challenges such as load shedding, rising interest rates and high fuel prices that harm the productivity of businesses and as a result profit margins.

All these factors affect the mental well-being of entrepreneurial leaders. It is easy to take your mental health for granted when you are preoccupied with the other facets of building a thriving entrepreneurial enterprise.

According to a study conducted by UC Berkeley, up to 72% of entrepreneurs were found to have some kind of mental health issue.

At least 30% of the entrepreneurs surveyed reported a history of depression; 19% had ADHD; 12% had substance-abuse issues; and 11% reported having bipolar disorder.

While these conditions are not caused solely by being an entrepreneur, the sometimes stressful nature of entrepreneurship can exacerbate pre-existing mental issues.

The development manager at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) Fatima Seedat highlighted the effects of an entrepreneurial lifestyle, and advised on some coping strategies.

She said, “The effects of entrepreneurship can be very stressful as one juggles between leading a team, liaising with clients, making important decisions, and having responsibilities… All of this and balancing work life, social life and taking care of one’s well-being.

“Stress, depression and high anxiety levels can be debilitating and may have an impact on functionality, behavioural patterns like eating and sleeping, and risky behaviour. Emotionally, individuals may experience feelings of sadness, feelings of being overwhelmed and helplessness.”

She offered the following coping strategies:

∎ A daily practice: start or end your day with a daily practice like journalling, meditation, exercise and deep breathing.

∎ Know when to reach out: when you are feeling overwhelmed, remember that reaching out and speaking to someone will help you gain a different perspective. You could also consult with a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist.

∎ Social support is important, especially through support groups. Sadag has specialised support groups available nationally, face to face and online. Please call Sadag for more information.

∎ Learn to make a to-do list and delegate tasks: once you allocate daily goals for yourself and those working under your leadership, the stress feels less.

∎ Integrate healthy lifestyle habits: healthy eating and sleeping habits, exercising and taking time out are very important.

∎ Journalling: it will help you self-reflect on your daily experiences, be more self-aware and help with introspection.

* If you require help or know someone who does, contact Sadag’s toll-free call centre on 0800 567 567.

[email protected]

IOL Business