The recent suicide of Robin Williams may have been devastating for his family, but it also brought to the forefront important questions on the handling of depression.
Some ignorant and potentially harmful people claimed that Robin Williams was a coward or that he could easily have faced the situation or that he was weak. Such statements can only damage the morale of millions of people who suffer from the debilitating disease. It could also mislead the rest of us into thinking that depression is just a state of mind and not an illness that causes immense suffering.
On the other hand, his suicide became a great opportunity for mental health organisations to push forward their agenda and to ask for more support from the NHS. Although GPs tend to treat immediately and accurately physical ailments, they tend to take their time to refer you to psychatrists or other mental health services. And time is crucial, when it comes to depression!
How does this disease affect entrepreneurs in general and startups in particular?
There is no doubt that the pressures of entrepreneurship are immense and that business people tend to have a lot of ups and downs. One day they win a new contract and they are on top of the world. The next day a competitor is pulling the carpet under their feet and gains a big chunk of the market.
On top of the obvious ups and downs in the market, there are also internal pressures. The investors want to see immediate results, the employees need to get paid on time, management is failing and the customers are bringing all kinds of complaints.
The constant juggling and pressures could take its toll in the mental health of an entrepreneur. Even worse, it could affect greatly the startups who have no previous experience of such situations.
In the past few years I have witnessed many startups who burned out. Budding entrepreneurs with high aspirations make the mistake of working well into the night and throughout the weekend to build a business that most likely will end up in failure!
They neglect their families and friends, thus cutting all support lines. They neglect their physical health, as they stop eating and exercising properly. And they become obsessed with the success of their startup.
Investors on the other hand (especially VCs) are a constant pressure to the entrepreneurs. Admittedly, they would like to see positive results sooner rather than later. In the worse of the cases, they would like to have their money back at some point. Even so, there is no excuse for the extreme push and pull of the startup teams. And there is no excuse for been inconsiderate and only money oriented.
Humans have their limits. Once we acknowledge this fact, it will be easier to handle what life throws at us. All parties involved in a startup should exercise some prudence and take into account their mortal nature. Sometimes, taking things as they come and not chasing continuously after the elusive success can bring more positive results in the long run.
After all, what is the use of a burned out team?
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