Living with mental health issues can be a huge barrier to some people in reaching their dreams and fulfilling their potential. This can be for a number of different reasons which are unique to each individual diagnosis. After three years of mental illness including seven months in mental hospitals, Emma Brown launched Mental Heads with Paul, her co-founder who she met in hospital, 25 years after knowing him as a teenager. Both wanted to use a very difficult part of their lives in a very positive way, having learnt a lot throughout the path of launching Mental Heads.
A first foremost important tip in starting a business following a mental illness is to ensure that you are making the right choice. Launching a business will inevitably bring stress with it. You need to understand this and be confident that this is the right time for you to do it. You are capable of more than you think. However, rushing to get going when you do not feel ready can hinder your potential. You cannot buy your health. But, when the time comes and you are confident that you can handle it, it is time to get started.
Understanding your condition
When starting out you need to understand your condition and work to your strengths. This is important when thinking about the industry you are entering and the environment that you will be working in. The variety of sectors and opportunities that technology has opened up has led to a new era of working. There are many remote and flexible working styles out there. For example, by starting a podcast you can do flexible hours and can continue to build the brand as time progresses and as you start to recover.
For example, you are most productive in the mornings and evenings but due to past treatment and your illness, you now tend to feel completely drained in the early afternoon and need to sleep. Therefore, you can record the podcasts at a time that suits you so that I am still able to hit any deadlines. Somebody with insomnia might find they work better at night – there is a job to suit everyone.
Accept your limitations
You also need to understand your capabilities and accept your limitations. Be honest with yourself in what you can and cannot achieve. Do not over-burden yourself with too much responsibility. Is there a certain aspect that you do not think you will be able to handle? Think about ways around this, you may be able to bring somebody else on board or look at alternatives.
Plan, plan, plan
It is important to have a plan B and even a plan C. For many people, accepting the implications of your condition is key. You need to make sure that you plan for any potential issues that it may bring about. This will help to ensure that the business does not suffer. Each condition will have very different challenges but ask yourself, for example, “If I cannot get out of bed today, who will cover for me?” Be mindful of any potential barriers so that you plan ahead. You also need to have long-term backup plans in place – just as somebody with a physical illness will have. Think about what you will do if you need to take sick leave, for example.
Limit your stress
Starting your own business presents the perfect opportunity to limit your day-to-day stress. If there was a previous aspect of a job that negatively impacted your condition, think of a way to overcome or eliminate it completely. The beauty of launching a business is that you can go at your own speed. You can carefully work on setting up as steadily as you wish – as long as you have the support in place to do so. When you are finally ready, ‘click’ launch and do not look back!