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Breaking Taboos: Dear Founders, It’s Time To Speak Up About Mental Health

Breaking Taboos: Dear Founders, It’s Time To Speak Up About Mental Health

A 2019 study said 55% of Indian entrepreneurs aged 20-40 years report anxiety as a dominant feeling, while many others have suicidal thoughts due to the everyday pressures

Startup founders say society-at-large doesn’t understand the mental pressures of running a business and the responsibility of managing employees

Though experts believe speaking about mental health issues is crucial, even the tragic death of CCD founder VG Siddhartha last year didn’t spark open conversations around mental health.

How will my customers behave? How will my investors react? How do I ensure the employees and families continue to be supported? Will my idea still hold its worth in the post-Covid world? How do I ensure productivity with work from home? How will I keep the team motivated? Should I open my office? How do I ensure all my employees are safe? How should I break the news of a layoff or a salary cut to my team member? What if I or someone I love gets sick?…

It’s an internal monologue that may be familiar to founders and entrepreneurs. And while the idea that not all founders have to think about things in such drastic terms is true, these days the crisis is no longer at the door — it’s well and truly inside the home — and founders and entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of not having to deal with these questions.

But the fear of the unknown affects each one of us in different ways, these are surely nerve-wracking times, to say the least, for entrepreneurs across the globe. “We have everything at stake. We will be on the streets if things don’t normalise soon. That is the kind of pressure we are in now. We have 150+ employees. But, we cannot and will not let any of them down,” said Aditi Bhosale Walunj, cofounder of Ratan Tata-backed Repos Energy, a Pune-based startup that enables door-to-door delivery of diesel.

For early-stage startups, the circumstances have been grimmer as many of their dreams came crashing down when the realisation that the pandemic may not go away soon dawned on them. As founders of Aiisma, a data marketplace startup, told us, the first few days after the lockdown were full of fear since the company was looking to raise a pre-seed round at that time and that was definitely not going to be easy. Even for established startups, it is not the same anymore. As a well-known founder, who didn’t want to be named, told us, “It is like the last four years have been wiped off and I’m just starting a new company.”