Our startup culture is breeding anxiety and depression; and we need to do something about it

- October 9, 2014 2 MIN READ

It’s a fairly established fact that the high stakes startup industry is an extremely demanding one – its culture necessitating that entrepreneurial hopefuls give 100% of themselves to their venture dreams, with little security of success or recognition. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of startup businesses will have failed by ten years.

The combination of high pressure levels, and no structure to deal with them appropriately, impacts individuals greatly. Many of the top cited reasons for failure in startups are emotional or psychologically grounded – things like being worn out, the effects of pride, or difficulties in being realistic.

From a psychological perspective, a healthy level of stress is important to maximise performance – but too much will interfere with functioning and can lead to performance declines. And, more importantly, the levels of stress and immense pressure to succeed those individuals are exposed to can take a serious toll on health.

While high stress and anxiety can be expected and quite normal in the industry, it is fundamental that individuals are able to recognise the difference between this normal stress, and unhealthy, harmful levels.

The startup culture, in which showing or recognising the impact of such mental strains is not just ignored but shunned, can quickly breed anxiety and depression. It’s a harmful and self-damaging system of ignorance that requires action.

The startup industry requires a fundamental shifting of its inherent culture of harmful self-sacrifice with no counteractive support or remedial processes. There needs to be bigger and more present emphasis on working with individuals to strengthen them against these threats to health and success.

As a psychology student, I believe more needs to be done to raise awareness of these issues. Rather than dismissing the problem, we need to talk about it openly (and without judgement) and equip those within the startup community with tools to strengthen themselves against the mental strains that the startup culture places on them.

These tools can be as simple as learning to identify stressors and manage stress more effectively, to effective relaxation and cognitive strategies, as well as information on methods of psychological therapies that can provide a vital leg up for those who need it.

The message is simple: you cannot be your best unless you are at your best. You can be better, and accomplish a lot more, if you learn to strengthen yourself against the mental and emotional strains inherent in the startup culture. Arm yourself against the damages that such stresses can cause, and learn how to thrive in the startup world instead.

If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, you can seek help via the following numbers:

Lifeline  13 11 14  Provides a 24-hour confidential and anonymous counselling service for anyone needing to talk about a problem.

SANE Mental Illness Helpline  1800 688 382  A free call number providing information and referral for callers concerned about mental illness anywhere in Australia.

beyondblue info line  1300 224 636  A free call number for Australian callers providing information about depression and anxiety.