June 18, 2018 – Two celebrity suicides in the past few weeks have left the world puzzled and in doubt about the times we are living in. Kate Spade, the 1990s designer whose handbags became a synonym of young and independent American women, and Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and CNN host, were found dead by hanging. Both cases threw up one word for us to contend with – depression.
Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain ran their successful business and professional empires, having worked hard to reach the top of their careers. Theirs was a life worth emulating, admiring and learning from. A life that had almost everything one could ask for. So what was amiss? What went wrong?
Upon their untimely and tragic death, the business community has taken a pause to reflect on the travails and tribulations of entrepreneurs and the nature of their profession. Three reasons or factors stand out for their dark and prominent presence in the lives of today’s entrepreneurs.
“There is so much pressure on entrepreneurs these days to corner the market and grow the next unicorn company. We hear mostly about successful entrepreneurs who have “made it”. Their stories of how they created a scalable game changing business. Our Instagram feed is full of “successful” stories. However very rarely do we talk about mental health, depression and what it really took to get there,” says Judy Sahay, Director of Crowd Media Group.
These issues are often sidelined and suppressed, because to share them is to seen as acknowledging one’s weakness, an invitation for judgments and a potential risk of losing clients.
A second factor that puts entrepreneurs at a high risk of depression and suicide is the fact that theirs is largely a lonely journey.
“Especially in startup land, you’re managing many roles and have so much responsibility. You have very little sleep, your brain is constantly fired up and you don’t have time to process things. This then becomes a dangerous cycle leading to depression and anxiety,” says Sahay.
Entrepreneurs and business people hardly get time to take a break, and may not have anyone to talk to, and talking may not work since most listeners wouldn’t ‘really get you’. Not many can fathom why one would leave a 40-hour week routine only to spend doing 100-hour weeks. No one in their position realizes that this is the stage where every second counts.
The third risk factor is something that one can legitimately call entrepreneurs out for. Many of them work hard ‘in the business’, but not ‘on the business’. The distinction is important, for daily operations and processes do not substitute for things that will make the business grow. The resultant lack of progress can lead to demotivation, depression and anxiety, as there is “nothing to show”.
In the end, it all comes back to realigning your big vision, be able to time mange and prioritize what is important and urgent first.