The fact that mental health issue is dominant among entrepreneurs is not surprising, what, with all they have to deal with. But considering that it’s only a healthy person that can make impact, taking care is therefore, imperative.
– By Dr.Emmanuel Owobu
Embarking on a long hard journey of entrepreneurship is one of the most difficult decisions one can make in life. Even with the best laid out plans in the world, the road to success is extremely uncertain. Every day, as entrepreneurs, we battle the usual ‘elements’ like decision making, financials, staff, etc. However, in Nigeria these aren’t the only challenges waiting for you when you “throw your future away” chasing an imaginary dream, as cynics would say. Problems of security, power, internet, legal issues, lack of talent (let’s not deceive ourselves we lack appropriate talent in so many fields), and of course lack of access to finances are giving many business owners sleepless nights.
According to a 2013 research in Canada, it was observed that entrepreneurs had a 72% more risk of mental illness compared to the general public. Although I couldn’t find an explicit research work on mental health and entrepreneurs in Nigeria, it is safe to say that these figures are comparable, if not worse.
In fact, being an entrepreneur in Nigeria where almost nothing works is like playing keep away with psychosis. Still, we are braving the wilderness and building solutions that are solving some of the biggest problems in our society. So, in the midst of all these struggles, how does an average Nigerian entrepreneur stay sane?
Similarly, we all know that mental health issues, if not promptly recognised and adequately managed, can have devastating complications. These complications can even affect the beautiful business we have worked so hard to build. Because we are constantly thinking about how to pay employees their fair wage, how to keep the lights on in the company, continuously trying to raise funds and turn profitable, secure deals, etc., we forget that we are actually human beings with flesh and blood who need to just sit down for a moment and BREATHE.
*PLEASE PAUSE AND BREATHE NOW*.
We ignore subtle signs of a failing mental state and dive harder into work. According to Mental Health of America some of these signs include:
- Confused thinking
- Prolonged depression or irritability
- Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Strong feelings of anger
- Hallucinations and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
- Unexplained physical ailments
In Nigeria, the social stigma that follows persons with poor mental state cripples sufferers to the point that they become mute. This further worsens the problem to the point that it affects our businesses, family and friends; essentially everything that we are fighting to protect.
As entrepreneurs, we must understand that being anxious or afraid of failure is natural and it doesn’t mean we are not strong enough mentally to deal with the hurdles of entrepreneurship. On the contrary, it means that we are ready to fight for success.
However, we should know when to “retreat and regroup”. This means taking a few steps back to:
- Eat healthy meals
- Cook for your family
- Take a walk
- Read a book
- Visit friends
- Attend weddings or social functions, etc.
Basically, take a break from work. Just a few hours can be enough to reboot and recharge that beautiful device called, “The Brain”. Also, we must learn to speak up. When we feel down, we should be strong enough to seek help from family and friends. Seeking non-judgemental help from professionals is also highly recommended.
As social entrepreneurs we are always speaking up and fighting social injustice through the services and solutions we provide. We must take this same voice into managing our mental state as we continue to build a better society for ourselves, family and friends.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.
Dr Emmanuel Owobu is a medical doctor, social entrepreneur and mobile health enthusiast with a passion in public health, research, e-health and ICT 4D. He is a Co-Founder & Partner at LabEight Africa and Co-Founder at MOBicure. He is particularly interested in solving social problems in communities using ICT, ranging from healthcare to access to education and finances. A lover of new technologies and innovative trends as well as always seeking to improve skills with every project done.