On and on during and immediately after the pandemic, it has been years of in-sanity… or un-sanity.
Whatever you call it, it’s been a demanding experience, chaotic, fear-inducing and full of unpredictability.
So while a global pandemic is shit of a very special sort, with unique challenges–including much shorter timelines for change–there is a way in which it has been more of the same old same old.
What’s different, though, is the explicit acknowledgement of the difficulties we face. Or perhaps it’s always been acknowledged explicitly, just not publicly or widely. But all around me, entrepreneurs are talking about their challenges in a new way, and about the emotional impact of these challenges.
Entrepreneurs as a group are uniquely vulnerable to mental health challenges. Research has demonstrated that entrepreneurship is negatively correlated with mental health. In addition, research has shown that entrepreneurs have a higher prevalence of mental health challenges than the general population.
It stands to reason therefore that we also have unique and creative coping skills and attitudes that help us withstand these vulnerabilities, and that, in that sense, in our weakness also lies our strength.
I have long held a critique of the medical model as a tool for supporting mental wellness; it’s useful but one-dimensional and I believe a holistic and strengths-based approach is more fruitful. The assumption of the medical model is that you identify what’s wrong and fix it with medication. But often what clients see as the problem and what doctors see as the problem are very different. And medication is a limited tool for addressing the psyche and spirit, and for redressing the social, institutional, systemic and cultural flaws that lead to “mental illness.”
I have often wished I could ask fellow entrepreneurs how they define mental wellness and mental health–outside of the DSM (the manual from which all mental health diagnoses are taken), the medical system, and especially beyond potentially pathologizing diagnoses.
January 2021 seemed like the most appropriate time for me to get my crap together, stop thinking about it, and start asking, so I launched a blog series that will be a forum for these questions, called “Staying Sane.”
My goal is to share real-life, real-people stories
It features interviews with women entrepreneurs about their mental health—but taking the conversation out of the diagnosis and treatment box and into how they define, relate to and care for their mental health and wellness.
Each interviewee will be asked the following five questions:
• What does mental health mean to you?
• What is your mental health story?
• How do you care for your mental health today?
• What is one essential mental wellness tip you have found useful?
• If there was just one thing you could share about mental wellness with women entrepreneurs, what would it be?
My goal with these interviews is to destigmatize and demedicalize the mental health conversation, and share real-life, real-people stories and tips specifically from and for women entrepreneurs.
Check out all the instalments in the series here.
I’m now (in 2022) writing a book on women, entrepreneurship and mental health that incorporates the interview data I collected. Tentative publication date is late 2023.