Written by Babatunde Fajimi - Nigeria
When tomorrow comes, the world will observe October 10 on the United Nation's calendar as World Mental Health Day. We will spare some thoughts today for the entrepreneur next door. The entrepreneur next door is a metaphor for every Doe who owns a business venture but has mental health condition whether symptomatic or not.
Between entrepreneurs and mental health
Recently, experts established a correlation between entrepreneurship and mental health. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor of psychiatry and Sheri Johnson, professor of psychology conducted a scientific study on 242 entrepreneurs who founded or co-founded businesses across America. 72% of these entrepreneurs had mental health conditions.
Iconic entrepreneurs are humans
We love and envy iconic entrepreneurs. We rank them creators, innovators, makers and designers of civilizations, cultures, comfort and economic sustenance. At the height of recession in America in 2007, entrepreneurs generated 8 million new jobs. Developing countries survive because of the economic contributions of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
Ironically, the iconic entrepreneurs are humans. They are the entrepreneurs next door. And, there is a dark side to entrepreneurship beyond the glitz and glamour. This makes the entrepreneurs next door vulnerable to mental health conditions than other people.
"Dignity in mental health"
The World Health Organisation has selected "Dignity in Mental Health" as the theme for this year's World Mental Health Day. Stakeholders have yet another opportunity to gather and create awareness about issues relating to mental health care to deconstruct myths and misconceptions about 'madness' among people of culture and religion as well as bridge the gaps between practice and reality.
On its part, WHO will sensitise the world about what can be done to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights oriented policy and law, training of health professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes and public information campaigns.
Living as entrepreneur is tough
Mental health conditions are prevalent in Nigeria. There is a conservative estimate of 20 million Nigerians living with mental health conditions. Among these are the entrepreneurs next door. Living as a Nigerian today is rough and tough, but living as an entrepreneur is tougher.
Starting your own business requires guts, determination, discipline, energy, sacrifice and lots of self denials. You are excited that you are living your dreams. The next day, you are overwhelmed with clouds of doubt and grief.
You feel lonely and worthless. You feel anger when you are stuck and nobody minds you. You become anxious when the potential client is not responsive. You 'lose your cool' with your 'imperfect' employees.
Whilst a small dose of these malfunctions may spur you on, a recurrent and persistent occurrence could indicate mental health conditions.
Entrepreneurs have mental illness too
The entrepreneurs next door have mental health conditions too. They struggle with life problems, distress, disabilities, deviance, failures to perform social functions and maladaptation which impair their mental and behavioural capabilities.
They bear their pains alone. They hide their fears and tears from their associates, friends and families since they are super humans who should not betray their emotions. They suffer in silence and ignorance until their conditions spiral out of control. Then, when they become 'mad' we stigmatize and ostracize them.
Experts said that entrepreneurs' innovativeness is a common feature in people with bipolar spectrum.
The creative, self-driven and energetic traits that the entrepreneur next door exhibits make them prone to mental health conditions. They may also be susceptible to depression, hysteria, personality disorder, anxiety disorder, mood disorder, substance use conditions and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
The frontiers of recovery
We should encourage our iconic entrepreneurs to seek professional medical intervention from certified clinical psychologists or psychiatrists. Patronage of quacks can only push the recovery frontiers farther from the threshold.
Early warning signs of mental health
There are early warning signs for mental health conditions. If there are constant feelings of sadness, irritability or tension around the entrepreneurs next door, there is a need to seek help.
If there is decreased interest or pleasure in usual business, activities or hobbies, loss of energy or a feeling of tiredness despite lack of activity, there is a need to seek help.
Other signs are change in appetite with significant weight loss or weight gain, change in sleeping patterns such as difficulty in sleeping, early morning awakening or excess sleeping, restlessness or feeling slowed down, decreased ability to make decisions or concentrate, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt.
Also, thoughts of suicide or death, seeing strange things or hearing strange voices, and inability to forgive or experience of prolonged and growing bitterness are also signs that should make the entrepreneurs next door to seek professional medical help.
Let's show love and care
Entrepreneurs next door live with mental health conditions. We should show them love. We should appreciate them through our care, thoughtfulness, prayers and social support. Mental health conditions are not a curse or death sentence. Entrepreneurs who suffer from them can live normal lives if they get help on time.