Prominent investor Daniel Mumby and Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikemer were among a brave group of startup leaders who opened up about mental health at an event in Melbourne encouraging entrepreneurs to speak up about it.
Mental Health Day for Startups, hosted by Melbourne health-tech community Peak15, was opened by beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman and attended by more than 100 guests.
Peak15 co-founder Siddharth Verma tells StartupSmart the stories shared revealed how poor mental health affects even the greatest leaders in our community.
“[Harman] started the presentation as the CEO of beyondblue,” Verma says.
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“Then, she really spoke about Georgie Harman the person, her own mental health challenges, she, herself, went through a very tough time.”
Among the issues discussed on the day were surviving suicidal thoughts, overcoming feelings of isolation and battling alcohol dependency, says Verma.
By providing a safe space for entrepreneurs, including leaders in the community, to share these types of challenging times, Verma hopes the conversation will continue and that there is greater awareness around the type of services and support available.
“The whole thing was about normalising the conversation of our mental health,” he says.
“The key outcomes are that we journey well together, stay connected and have a balanced lifestyle.”
Strike a work-life balance and support each other
One guest speaker at the event said she resorted to alcohol to get through stressful 16-hour workdays.
It wasn’t until a peer confronted her about this unsustainable work-life balance that she realised the critical need for something to change.
“You have to stay connected with your family and peers,” says Verma.
“You have to find a lifestyle balance and set vey specific barriers around what is good and what is not good to do.”
Create a safe space and talk about mental health
Verma says the honesty and flow of stories on mental health on the day reveals how prevalent the issue is, which means more startups, founders and their teams should be talking about it.
“We need to have a conversation around mental health because everybody goes through a tough time,” he says.
“Check in with yourself and also your team members, and share the hard stories.”
Don’t forget the moments on the way to the finish line
In a specially made video played during the event, Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikmeier said many founders chase the finish line and miss out on numerous life moments along the way.
“We as founders can keep on chasing that [but] if we forget to live in the moment, we will never get to that dream” says Verma.
The message inspired Verma so much, he decided to take a break.
“As a reward to myself, I spent the entire weekend not looking at phones, I had a scotch, went to the gym, went to the spa,” he says.
“We need to take some time off.”