Do entrepreneurs have mental health issues? Of course, we do! According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness. This is not a breakdown according to where you work. This is a general analysis of American men and women who are age 18 and older. So, it most certainly includes those who are self-employed and business owners.
The deeper question I want to consider is, how prone to suicide are entrepreneurs? Deeper still, is the solopreneur at greater risk? Not only do I want to address the likelihood of suicide and the solopreneur but also talk about steps to prevention. But let’s first define a solopreneur and the differences we possess from entrepreneurs.
What is the difference between a solopreneur and an entrepreneur?
The most basic distinguishing factor between the two is that an entrepreneur typically has partners and/or employees to help them run their business(es). The solopreneur is responsible for making all the decisions in their own business(es). This can make for a very lonely work life. This can be a heavy load to carry for one person.
Of course, there are benefits to being able to do what you want, how you want. However, all the problems land on your shoulders as well. And, while there are millions of solopreneurs in the world who are doing well, there will always be some who could use some assistance. Studies and research are currently being done on the suicide risks of entrepreneurs which gives you an indication of some of the difficulties solopreneurs face as well.
I also want to consider, as a parallel to the solopreneur, the creative. Could suicide risk be greater in the solopreneur because so many of us are creative individuals? There have certainly been studies done in the creative populations to infer a link between mental health and creativity. In recent years, several celebrities have come forward to talk about their experiences with mental health struggles as well. A slew of well-known creative solo and entrepreneurs have committed confirmed or suspected suicide. Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdin, Tony Hsieh, and John McAfee are just a few.
While the topic of solopreneurship and suicide deserve more research and attention, we don’t have to sit on our hands and wait. We can do something to decrease the odds and numbers before they ever get published. In this blog I want to give you 7 excellent suicide prevention strategies for the solopreneur. Let’s normalize being proactive about our mental health instead of reactive. This is not a political fight where we have to wait until someone else dies before we do something about it. We can start today!
Vet yourself before you wreck yourself.
Being a solopreneur creates distance and isolation by its nature of being in business for yourself and by yourself. Depression and thoughts of suicide feed off loneliness. Think about finding someone to do check-ins and debriefings with. This doesn’t mean you have to pick up a business partner. It simply offers a support system to decrease unnecessarily long stents of alone time. If you need a counselor or a coach, Psychology Today would be a great place to start looking.
No one should know the state of your mental health better than you. However, having a checks and balances system would be beneficial. This is not to say you should wait until someone else notices something isn’t quite right with you. You want to get into the habit of being honest with yourself about how you’re doing mentally and emotionally. If you’re struggling, you can let someone know.
Have you done any therapeutic work in the past? If so, revisit some of the tools you gained previously. Have a mental health checkup as often as you have a physical exam. It doesn’t mean you have to start of restart therapy sessions. A checkup is for preventative measure. You want to make sure you’re not slipping off track. You don’t have to wait until something is going horribly wrong in your life to check in.
Account for your weaknesses.
As a solopreneur you have to consider your weaknesses both professionally and personally. Often, when there’s a risk of suicide, other people aren’t aware that you were ever troubled by anything. We tend to do a pretty good job of covering up weaknesses instead of finding support in our lives that will supplement them. If you acknowledge your vulnerable spots you can open yourself up to receiving help if and when you need it.
Your weakness could be something as innocent as not being able to say “no”. However, if left uncovered you could be headed for burnout faster than you realize. When you’re always willing to say yes to people, it leads them to believe you have everything under control. So, when you ask for help they’re inclined not to take you seriously. Setting some boundaries is going to be necessary for you. Painful, but necessary.
Be willing to name your weakness and put some boundaries in place to protect you from being triggered or risking your business because of it. Please don’t ignore the fact that you have a vulnerable spot. All of us do. Identify it so it doesn’t ever catch you off guard when someone else finds it.
Command your sphere of influence.
Know who you’re here for. You’re not trying to reach everyone with your business. If you are, you’re probably going to be frustrated. You don’t ever want to feel stuck or trapped in a business you put your heart and soul into. This kind of disappointment can lead to depression and anxiety as a solopreneur. Feeling trapped can lead to impulsive behaviors including suicide. Beware of giving yourself any room for those kind of thoughts to creep in.
Hone in on your gifts and talents and the fact that you have more than one. What I do with my clients, who are highly creative, is craft switch when they’re feeling stuck. What do I mean? If you’re a content creator and you’re hitting a brick wall with your creativity, think about what else you know how to do. Are you a singer, painter, designer, or a writer as well? Switch to using one of your other gifts for a short period of time. Allow your mind and thought process to reset and then come back to content creation. That short shift will often be just what you need to get out of your rut. Your customer or target audience may appreciate the other products you come up with as well.
Sometimes it’s more about how you show up in the world as a solopreneur and a person. When you care about yourself as well as your customer, it shines through. Remember, you are never trapped. You may be a solopreneur but you’re not a “one-trick-pony”. You have options. You decide what you want to be known for and that doesn’t have to be just one thing. You are in charge of who you reach and how you reach them.
Coping is key as a solopreneur.
Consider having at least 3 coping strategies you can engage on a regular basis. These strategies should be readily accessible and cost very little. Things you can do at least 1-2 times per week that keep you mentally and emotionally grounded. For me, those are reading, writing, and watching old movies on repeat. As a solopreneur myself, I have to calm down at the end of the day. These are calming activities that allow me to recharge and reset. Make a list of at least 3 things you have at your disposal to use for your own recharging.
Consistency is something you already know you need as a solopreneur. One thing I’ve noticed among those who get out of balance are those who stop doing the activities that were helping them. Life will get busy and chaotic. Sure, you may take a day or two away from your routine. But unless you’re on vacation, a routine is important for your mental health.
No one goes into business thinking about suicide prevention. But maybe we should. Especially when we’re primarily on our own. Having your coping strategies down to a science is one of the best things you can do to keep your mind steady and calm. And yes, there may come a time where one of your coping strategies fails. Meaning, it doesn’t work to calm you down or recharge you. That’s the primary reason why I believe you should have more than one strategy.
Trust your intuition as a solopreneur.
As a solopreneur you must know who you can trust. You may not have to trust anyone but yourself with your business decisions. But you do need to be able to trust the people you associate with in your personal life. Who’s here for you? Who has your best interest in mind? You want to be able to name at least one person in your life who you can go to if you should find yourself in a mentally and emotionally vulnerable place. Anyone would be less likely to consider suicide if you know someone truly cares for you.
You want to be able to not only describe what a healthy support system looks like to you but also whether you have one or not. You may have people in your family but do you consider them trustworthy? You may have friends or acquaintances you’ve been around for years, but would you put your life in their hands?
Betrayal has caused absolute chaos in the lives of solopreneurs and people in general. Are you equipped to handle it? Do you know what a trustworthy person looks like to you? Do those you’re in relationship with consider you trustworthy? This is where you make a list of the characteristics that you deem as trustworthy. Measure yourself and others against this list. If you or they do not possess these traits, you have some work to do on yourself and those in your inner circle.
Set yourself up for a win.
Setting yourself up for a win is all about goal setting. A protective factor against suicide as a solopreneur is your why. If your why is bigger than anything that’s coming against you, it will encourage you to keep going even when you don’t feel like it. The reason you’ve gone into business for yourself and by yourself has to have a purpose beyond making money.
Once you know your purpose and why you’re doing what you do, you need a solid plan to accomplish it. Yes, I know you likely have a business plan or strategy. But is it so big and vague that you don’t know how to manage your day-to-day schedule? Is your plan so boring and unfulfilling that you’re losing site of why you got into the business in the first place? Make sure you grab hold of your why and keep it in front of you every day.
I would encourage you not only to have your goal in mind as a solopreneur, but how you’re going to get there. Also put a plan in place for you to sustain your results once you make it. A problem I see in many clients and people in general is the lack of a sustainability plan. What good is it to reach your goal and then lose it because you didn’t plan on how your were going to hold onto once you got it? Most people don’t have a problem reaching their goals. It’s watching the thing you worked so hard for slip right out of your hands because you failed to plan how to keep it.
Your cross to bear as a solopreneur.
We all have a purpose in this life. Do you know what yours is? I can certainly tell you that it’s to help someone else. Who you help and how you help them is a part of your cross to bear. This phrase has a background in the Christian faith. That we are to taken up our cross and follow Jesus. For a Christian, our purpose is found in Christ. However, even if you’re not a Christian, it doesn’t let you off the hook. You still have a purpose to fulfill. You’ll just have to go about it a different way.
What keeps you anchored and grounded in life? Where do you find peace? As a solopreneur you have to know what keeps you focused. When life is going off the rails, what do you hold on to? I have found that whether in business for yourself or not, if you have no source of stability, thoughts of suicide are not too far away from your mind. Most of us have an innate desire to be wanted, loved, and needed. We must find fulfillment somewhere in our lives because of this.
You are the answer to someone’s problem. Did you not become a solopreneur to meet a need for your target audience? This is your cross to bear. You were created to meet that need in the most efficient and effective way possible. Lack of purpose can lead to the loss of feeling wanted, needed, and loved. Losing sight of your purpose can open the door to the negative thoughts of not wanting to be here anymore. Wondering why you were put here in the first place. Speculations that no one would miss you if you were gone. Make sure you take up your cross and carry it proudly so always remember why you’re here.
Final Thoughts On Suicide Prevention for the Solopreneur
Your mental health is of utmost importance as a human being. As a solopreneur there are some additional nuances you must consider when it comes to taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally. Your business is important because it’s your livelihood and it solves problems for others. Your mental health must take priority in your life because you cannot get away from yourself no matter where you go. The most intimate, beautiful, and horrifying thoughts all come from the same place. If you want to conquer your life and your business, you have to take care of your soul, body, and spirit. Your soul consists of your mind, will, emotions, imagination, and intellect. Take care of it to your best ability! If you do, suicide will never be an option for you.
The strategies outlined in this blog are great tools to help you process your thoughts and feelings. However, they are not a replacement for speaking with a mental health professional. Because you want to be proactive about your mental health, use the 7 strategies for suicide prevention in the solopreneur included in this post to help you get started. I’ve also written a mini book and an online course you can take as well. If you need additional resources, check out Psychology Today. If you’re in crisis you can dial or text 988 at any time, nationwide. Be proactive about your mental health, be well, and God bless!