Laurel Anne Stark

An estimated 3.2 million Canadian entrepreneurs may be suffering from this invisible killer

Laurel Stark

It can start as a cold fist coiled around the heart... 

The acidic feeling expands from the chest to the belly, spreading into the throat, drying the tongue and permeating the limbs.

The heart starts to beat faster, breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Thoughts speed up, become less coherent.

If you’re lucky it stops there.

If you’re not, the feeling of an enormous elephant sitting on your chest makes it hard to breathe.

Vision starts to blacken on the outer edges and terror descends. You can feel the certainty of death’s hot breath on the back of your neck.

Sometimes, this feeling will send you to the Emergency room, so certain is the threat of a heart attack.


It’s a panic attack.


The bigger, burlier brother of anxiety, stress and worry.

It’s cousin also ascends from the dark. Marked by a lethargy, a heavy blanket of despair, fatigue and a marked lack of motivation.

Depression. Sadness, Grief, The blues.

Whatever you choose to call these twin states of struggle, chances are, if you run your own business, odds are about 3 in 4 you’ve felt this way.

A study by Dr. Michael Freeman of the University of Berekely, CA, USA has, for the first time, provided quantifiable data that entrepreneurs are much more likely than non-entrepreneurs to suffer from one or more mental illnesses.

The study was released in March 2015 and found that a staggering 72% of entrepreneurs are directly affected by mental illnesses like ADD, ADHD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Addiction..

That’s right...

72% of Entrepreneurs are directly affected by mental illness.

Canada is second only to the US in the rates of entrepreneurship worldwide with 13% of the population as entrepreneurs.

(and third worldwide in amount of coffee consumed - a coincidence - I think not).

If these numbers are universal that means of the 4.5 million entrepreneurs in Canada 3.2 million Canadian entrepreneurs are suffering from one or more mental illnesses.

That’s staggering.

If it were any other illness, I think it would get a lot more press.

3.2 Million Canadian Entrepreneurs May Suffer From One or more Mental Illnesses.

So, why does this matter?

As Dr. Michael Freeman so eloquently stated: “Entrepreneurs create the vast majority of new jobs, pull economies out of recessions, introduce useful products and services, and create prosperity."

Despite this, my research indicates that in Canada, there is a distinct lack of supports pertaining specifically to entrepreneurial mental health.

During my interview with Dr. Freeman, I asked him if he would agree that there appears to be a gap in the supports provided for entrepreneurs as it relates to their mental health.

He does agree - there's a distinct lack of support for entrepreneur's mental health.

Awareness days like January 25th “Let’s Talk” are critical to help reduce the stigma of mental illness, spread awareness to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand they may be at a significantly higher risk of mental illness, and provide critical funding for anti-suicide support programs.

The anti-suicide support programs are critical, as the number of suicides in the entrepreneurial tech community don't appear to be slowing down.

What can you do?

Spread the word!

Share this article with a small business owner or entrepreneur you may know.

Using the hashtag #BellLetstalk Jan 25th and Bell Media will donate 5 cents for every mention of this hashtag on Twitter & Instagram to much needed mental health initiatives.

Join me on Facebook live, 11:30 PST January 25th for Bell Media Let’s Talk Day, where I’ll be diving into my interview with Dr. Michael Freeman, and spreading awareness for the importance of mental health support.