In recent years, society has begun to challenge its long-held associations between mental health and weakness. This shift in attitude is evident in the increasing amount of research being conducted on mental health, the de-stigmatization of conditions like anxiety and depression, and the overall willingness to talk about these issues openly. However, when it comes to the C-Suite, discussing emotional wellbeing openly is still a touchy subject. This reluctance is likely due to the high-pressure nature of executive positions, where any sign of weakness can be perceived as a liability. As a result, many business leaders are hesitant to seek help for fear of being seen as unable to handle the demands of their job. Additionally, there is a sense that admitting to struggles with mental health may be used against them by shareholders or board members. While society has made progress in its understanding of mental health, there is still much work to be done in normalizing these conversations in the workplace. Until then, executives will continue to suffer in silence.
A study conducted by global health insurer Bupa found that 58% of senior business leaders find it difficult to open up about mental health. Leaders who were dealing with mental health conditions felt that talking about it would affect their current role, the perception of their capabilities, and their future career. The study also found that 61% of leaders said they had experienced poor mental health in the past 12 months. This is a significant increase from the 43% who said the same in 2018. It's clear that more needs to be done to support leaders who are dealing with mental health issues.
The age-old phrase of ‘it’s tough at the top’ will ring true for many leaders. At CEO-level, it can be hard to find someone to talk to or share the burden with. According to a study by Mental Health America, 49% of CEOs report struggling from a mental health condition and the majority of CEOs say that they are feeling overworked, struggling with fatigue and suffering from continual stress. The demands of the job can often be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to maintain a work-life balance. However, it is important for CEOs to find ways to cope with the stress of the job and to take care of their mental health.
Leaders should feel comfortable talking about their mental health without fearing for their careers. Only then will we see real progress being made.
By Dean Miles
Keywords: Business Continuity, Mental Health, Startups