Building a company can be extraordinarily stressful. Entrepreneurs face challenges for which they have had little preparation – constant demands on their attention, a plethora of new responsibilities across multiple roles, highly uncertain outcomes accompanied by little job security. The work of building a new enterprise is emotionally taxing and often involves considerable financial and reputational risk. In this light it is unsurprising that a recent report by KPMG found the majority (78%) of Australian startup founders unsatisfied with their levels of stress and mental wellness.
At the beginning of March 2020, COVID-19 added a new level of uncertainty. Entrepreneurs remain vulnerable to emotional burnout or more serious mental illness issues, taking their toll on both their personal lives and their startup.
Mental illness actively seeks to undermine performance by affecting the way an entrepreneur thinks, feels, behaves and interacts with others. When affected by stress or mental illness, capacity to reach out for help is also reduced capacity to reach out for help is also reduced, and that’s assuming entrepreneurs know where to go for help.
This pandemic has introduced the right time to change the conversation about entrepreneurs and mental health. We need to support and nurture entrepreneurs to experience and learn different mindsets to deal with the effects of stress, in order to operate with optimal emotional and physical health, now.
The Australian Government recognised the need to support all Australian’s and their mental health, including entrepreneurs, when it introduced the Better Access Initiative (in 2006), offering 10 Medicare subsidised psychological therapeutic sessions, each year. And, earlier in August, for those in Victoria going through lockdown 2.0, an additional 10 sessions are now available.
Entrepreneurs can benefit from these sessions by obtaining a Mental Health Care PlanMental Health Care Plan (MHCP) which can be likened to the backbone of your strategy and business plan. And, whilst the mental health system can be difficult to navigate Melbourne Edge Consultants will match founders to experienced clinicians (accredited mental health social workers, clinical psychologists and psychologists), also trained in entrepreneurial frameworks, startups and working with high performers.
Whilst it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to cite they ‘don’t have time’ time to prioritise their mental health, a recent pilot by Melbourne Social Work and Psychology Consultants has preliminary findings to suggest otherwise. Entrepreneurs demonstrated that despite being time-poor, session attendance indicated they benefited from a space for reflection, self-development and focussing on mindset.
The pilot offered regularly scheduled face-to-face sessions which provided entrepreneurs with a time, space and relationship dedicated to discussing their personal wellbeing; enhancing professional skills and competence; and to reflect on the complexity facing their startup. Sessions were based on positive psychology principles and modelled on a common practice among allied health professional known as clinical supervision. Early findings also suggest by removing barriers of cost, self-reliance and self-belief, entrepreneurs benefit from decreased stress, anxious and depressive traits, whilst enabling productivity and increased psychological wellbeing.
We mentioned before, the time is ‘now’. This is the right time for entrepreneurs to experience and learn different mindsets to operate with optimal emotional and physical health.