A Therapist's Advice for Dealing With Founders Depression
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

As a psychotherapist and owner of a private counseling practice, Asha Tarry has counseled adults, children, and families for 18 years. With a passion for helping people of color, we caught up with Tarry to get some insight into how business owners can deal with depression—the dark side of entrepreneurship that people rarely talk about.

According to a study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, 32% or more of entrepreneurs struggle with depression. What do you believe makes entrepreneurs even more vulnerable to mental health challenges?

Entrepreneurs are more vulnerable to mental health challenges because of the overwhelming time and resources they invest in businesses that don’t pay off initially as fast as we’d like and as much as we require to live. Some people are isolated and don’t have professional networks that they can go to for business advice or mentorship. This is due to how much everyone is working and competing to stay on top, while others are simply not available or interested in offering support for other entrepreneurs. Many of us risk our own healthy lifestyle habits such as adequate sleep and proper diet for the necessity of making money and getting exposure.

There’s a term called ‘Founders’ Depression,’ which applies to the roller coaster of emotions and pressures entrepreneurs face trying to grow a business.” Do you think there’s a way to avoid founder’s depression?

If every entrepreneur when they filed their L.L.C. were linked to an adviser, I believe that would at least minimize the stressors and some of the costs associated with making so many mishaps in the business right from the start. If there were incentives for more seasoned business owners to audit or advise newer business owners on developing effective structural systems, hiring staff, IP protection, marketing, budgeting and scaling a business I truly believe a lot fewer businesses would go into debt, owners would lose less of their stakes, and more companies would profit longer.

depression

Asha Tarry

What tips can you share for entrepreneurs dealing with Founders’ Depression?

Don’t wait until it’s too late in your business to seek counsel. Seek your local small business administration’s resources for what you need. Advance your knowledge every chance you get including outside your specialty area, that way you can have a better chance at sustaining a viable entity in a competitive free enterprising society.

Depression doesn’t discriminate but unfortunately, the stigma around mental health struggles is real especially in the black community. If you are a family member or friend of an entrepreneur, what are the signs and symptoms of depression should you look for?

Look for signs that reflect disconnections; such as avoiding any pleasurable activities, persistent irritability, isolation, not taking care of oneself—from not showering to not eating properly, to not taking care of important things like paying bills or taking care of their health.

How should someone approach a friend if they believe they are suffering from depression?

Friends and family should avoid using diagnostic terms when they express concern. If you’re not a therapist or a doctor, don’t use clinical terms to describe what you see. Say it plain. If they appear frustrated a lot, say that. If they don’t have any desire to have fun anymore, you can point that out or just ask when they last enjoyed something outside of their work. Speaking from your own perspective and not from one that is authoritative or presumptuous can be easier to engage than someone who comes across as all-knowing or as a fixer.

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