Hug a Founder : Dealing with Entrepreneur Depression

 Founder depression and entrepreneur mental health

Startup life is great!  

Just ask any entrepreneur or founder. When people think of entrepreneurs and startups the thoughts are usually positive ones like ambition, intelligence, and opportunity.  Rarely do thoughts of loneliness, depression, and anxiety enter the conversation when discussing startups.  This is starting to change, a recent 2015 study was one of the first of its kind to link higher rates of mental health issues to entrepreneurship.  49% of those surveyed reported having a mental health condition with depression being reported as number one and was present in 30% of all entrepreneurs.  This was followed by ADHD (29%) and anxiety problems (27%).  That is a significantly higher percentage than the average population.  The numbers get worse when you ask about family history of mental illness with 72% of entrepreneurs indicating they or someone in their immediate family has mental health problems.

It’s the Startup life for me

The stresses of starting a new business are too many to list.  Working 20 hours days, waking up incredibly early, and never sleeping have become badges of honour in startup culture, not to mention unhealthy eating and exercise habits.  Its easy to see why founders end up depressed at some point and they generally do not talk about it.  Many companies don’t survive these times.  

I have battled with these issues myself and talked to many entrepreneurs who struggle with these issues.  Here are some things that have helped me:

Be Healthy:
Eat well, exercise everyday and sleep.  Harder than it sounds especially the sleep part for me.  Take time to prepare your own food this will give you a break from your work and encourage you to prepared something healthy.  I find time spent preparing food and cleaning after centres me back in the moment and I can often get clarity of thought around a problem I was struggling with otherwise.  Exercise releases chemicals your brain and body needs to be healthy so get out and move. you may be surprised at how much it helps you mentally.  Sleep is crucial for mind and body we all know it, so develop good sleep habits.  Limit caffeine intake, don’t eat late and find a routine that works for you

Be Social:
Develop your local network of peers, mentors and other entrepreneurs and share your challenges.  I host networking events to get local entrepreneurs out and socializing.  It is great to share ideas, challenges and frustrations with like minded people.  Connecting will help your business and your health.

Be present:
Take the time to disconnect and make time for your friends and family.  Go to the birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions or even just a coffee and connect with those closest to you.  Don’t talk about work.  Friends and family keep us grounded and although it may seem like your taking time away from your work, you are really investing in the very thing the helps us keep going.

Reach out:
You are not alone even though it may feel like it.  Talk to a friend, find a mentor or other founder to talk to, or seek professional help.  Do it for you and for your company.

In Toronto and want to talk to someone? Email me at we can arrange a time where you can buy me a coffee.

Craig Major -, Program Director Startup Toronto