Depression rates are higher in entrepreneurs and creatives than the general population. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates went up more than 30% in half of states since 1999.
“Suicide is a leading cause of death in the US. Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but suicide is rarely caused by any single factor. In fact, many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other problems often contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance use, physical health, and job, money, legal, or housing stress.”
I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade killed themselves recently. Both were successful entrepreneurs – people you may have admired.
Anthony’s death threw me for a terrible loop. I am a huge fan. Being paid to travel around the world and eat amazing food sounds incredible to me. Writing bestselling books and winning prestigious awards sounds really fun, too. Many of us would LOVE to do that.
Many of us have said to ourselves and others: Man, I wish I had his life!
But something clearly wasn’t right in Anthony’s world and he chose to take his own life.
I can’t stand it.
Because I have previously written about my own mud-wrestling with depression, I felt compelled to write something about this.
The struggle is real
For many of us, depression ebbs and flows. Some days it’s barely perceptible, and some days you’re in the middle of the swamp.
(Do you need some perspective and suggestions for how to manage your issues with depression and anxiety? I keep a consolidated list of posts about depression, anxiety, and suicide here on list.ly.)
Your heroes also may suffer
Tim Ferriss is crazy famous in the entrepreneur community and an incredibly successful author and investor. His TED talk starts out with a story that is so powerful it took the air out of the room. He spoke about how he came shockingly close to killing himself as a senior in college and how managing his life-long depression and anxiety has affected his life.
You should read this post from Tim’s blog, “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide.”
Carol’s and my friend and colleague small business consultant Barry Moltz just wrote this heartbreaking post, “I Could Have Been Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain.”
The pressure cooker
In fact, the startup and tech community seem to have some serious issues. This article is from 2015, but I am sure it is only more relevant today. Check out the statistics in “There’s a dark side to startups, and it haunts 30% of the world’s most brilliant people.”
And while you may not be famous or under the microscope to achieve meteoric growth like a funded tech startup, you may put enormous pressure on yourself with huge goals and overly ambitious time frames.
Please look for arbitrary deadlines you may have set for yourself if you feel like things are spiraling out of control. You may not even realize that you were the person who set them!
By the way, if you set them, you can adjust them.
Compare and despair
Striving to achieve something is good. It’s motivating. I would say it’s why we’re here. But, measure yourself against yourself and what you can reasonably expect to achieve, given your specific skills and personal situation.
We tend to compare ourselves to public expectations or other people’s success and judge ourselves harshly.
We say things to ourselves that we wouldn’t let other people say to us – ever. We are frequently our own worst critic.
And unkind friends and family members may dogpile on us at the absolute worst times, times when we are completely drowning in shame and feelings of failure.
I hear people’s worst stories and fears as we work through re-launching their business or career. I hear stories about layoffs, bad business breakups, experiences with death, divorce, self-loathing, financial collapse, bankruptcy, and every other terrible thing. Depression and anxiety pop up frequently as well, not surprisingly.
If you’re struggling with personal health issues or helping a parent through end of life, your business may take longer to be profitable. Be reasonable and flexible with your expectations.
And please don’t assume that someone else has it easier or better than you do. They probably don’t.
If you want to hear this from a highly qualified clinical researcher and expert, please read Brené Brown’s gorgeous post, “Everyone Has a Story.”
The entrepreneurial roller coaster
Entrepreneurs are guaranteed to have a roller coaster of experiences, including big highs and big lows.
We can get through this together. You are not broken and you are not alone. We need you and your magic.
If you’re struggling with depression, please reach out to friends, family, counselors, or therapists.
Or reach out to me.
Please know that help is available and you can get through this.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
P.S. This song is the perfect example of compare and despair. When I read about Anthony Bourdain, I immediately thought of it.