Entrepreneur Depression in South Africa: Speak Up or Sit Down

Mental Health Issues of Our Entrepreneurs Under the Spotlight

When last have you heard the Braaivleis Fire conversation revolving around entrepreneur depression in South Africa? The chances of that happening are probably slimmer than dreaming about your son playing chess instead of rugby! Entrepreneur depression is simply a subject that very few people want to talk about, ’cause let’s face it: it is depressing talking about depression. Even though statistics show that as many as 72% of entrepreneurs suffer from depression at some point in time.

Why is Entrepreneur Depression in South Africa at an all-time high?

Entrepreneurs have to deal with an insane amount of challenges in South Africa on a constant basis. From the standard failures, betrayals, abandonment, disappointment, burnout, and insomnia, South African entrepreneurs also need to deal with politics, BBBEE and potholes. And then we have not even touched on electricity and water shortages!!

It almost sounds like the plot for a really scary movie. Or it could be the script starter for a massive comedy blockbuster. ‘Cause who can believe that so many things can go wrong all at the same time?

It’s not just running in my family

My number one entrepreneurial mentor is without a shadow of a doubt my father, Flip Rosslee. Coming from a subsistence farmer background, he had the most spectacular rags-to-riches story. From the outside he had it all figured out. Even though he passed away more than six years ago, I am often reminded how amazing my dad was. But he did not escape the claws of depression. Whenever I find myself battling to get out of my self-made black hole, it does help to know that there have been times when my dad had to take an anti-depressant or two. And that there is absolutely nothing wrong in admitting when you are not OK.

The reality is that it is not just running in my family. The ebbs and flows of our emotional state of mind are as normal as having birthdays once a year. It is coming around, whether you like it or not.

Can Entrepreneur Depression be as common as the Common Cold?

There are studies that argue that the same qualities that make entrepreneurs exceptional are the origins of getting entrepreneurs to suffer from depression! How on earth can that be? The same qualities that make you an outstanding entrepreneur: creativity, ability to pivot, empathy, independence, visionary and crisis-management skills may be rooted in negative life experiences which you have taught yourself to get out of one way or another.

Many studies argue that some entrepreneurs are predisposed to mental illness, including depressive tendencies. If you have experienced any level of trauma in your past, it likely resulted in many negative beliefs about yourself and the world around you.

The difference between being depressed and feeling depressed

This might sound like a trick sentence, but it is important to spot whether or not you are going through your typical annual feeling-down cycle, or whether or not you need medical attention. Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety.

There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains.

Find a Business Coach with Empathy

As a business coach, I understand the importance of finding someone to talk to that are outside of your family and friendship circles that can remain completely unemotional and uninvolved in your situation. More importantly, your coach should have empathy without feeling sorry for you. Your coach is not supposed to give you the answers, but rather help you to find the answers yourself. After all, you are only going to act if you came to the realisations yourself.

Entrepreneur Depression: Should you ever sit down and shut up?

In my books, this is a no-brainer. You should never just ‘sit down and shut-up’. Whatever the state that you are in, it is something that you have to deal with before it becomes an even bigger problem. The fact that you are a massively successful entrepreneur does not exclude you from needing to talk to someone about it. It might just be a bigger reason to speak to a business coach who will help you work through your situation without sharing your information to all and sundry.

That is after all why we are here.

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