Entrepreneur & investor: An honest conversation about mental health

As part of our ongoing series, we’re exploring how poor mental health affects social entrepreneurs, who’s doing something about this, and what needs to happen next. This time, we explore the delicate balance between the personal and professional when it comes to talking to your investor

The fear associated with opening up about mental health is understandable. Communicating painful experiences and laying yourself bare is really hard, and often leaves you feeling vulnerable and exposed.

But when you add a layer of the dynamic between an investor and entrepreneur, this worry can manifest itself in a different way. 

“My number one asset is my mental capacity, so I can't risk anyone doubting that,” said one entrepreneur we spoke to for our first article in this series. For her, there’s not just a fear of being vulnerable, but of whether that vulnerability will lead to jeopardising the support and funding from investors, ultimately negatively impacting the business and all those benefiting from it. 

Is this just speculation? How do investors really view mental health? And specifically, how important to them is the mental health of the entrepreneurs they're supporting? 

Olivia Sibony connects investors with talented entrepreneurs who use business as a force for good at SeedTribe. Adah Parris is an entrepreneur teaching leaders how to transform organisations by focusing on culture. We sat them down together for an honest conversation exploring the delicate balance between honesty and professionalism when it comes to mental wellbeing.

What worries do investors have about the mental health of entrepreneurs they are supporting? 

Let’s not shy away from the truth. Some investors will be concerned that the mental health of an entrepreneur may negatively impact their organisation (and in turn, the investor’s money) explains Sibony. 

So how can these concerns be alleviated?

Anyone can suffer from mental health challenges. And one in four of us actually do. But, as Parris points out: "Just because you're going through mental  health challenges, doesn't mean that you can't meet targets.”

Still, simply increasing awareness of mental health in all its many forms can help to lift the stigma and make it easier to discuss it. Should that be driven more proactively by the investor? 

As Jed Emerson, speaking at this year’s Good Deals + Beyond Good Business conference, said: “The better investors are the ones that... focus almost as much on the entrepreneur and their team as they [do] on the team’s ability to execute on the strategy or certain deliverables.” 

And how can entrepreneurs help support themselves (and each other)?

Entrepreneurs themselves can take proactive steps. Many organisations are now offering Mental Health First Aid training, which can help people notice the signs of poor mental health, giving them the skills they need to support both their own and others’ wellbeing – ideally before it’s reached a tipping point. And, as Parris explains, business owners can seek out coaching that focuses not just on the business side of things, but also support with personal matters.

Are you a social investor or support organisation addressing mental health in a proactive way? Are you a social entrepreneur with strong views about what investors should do? Let us know: news@pioneerspost.com.

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Produced and written by: Sasha Gallick. Videographer: Edward Japp.