Stewart Rogers: The tech industry is killing itself, literally, but it’s not too late to stop it

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People in the tech industry are taking their own lives at an alarming rate, and the tech industry itself is fueling the epidemic.

In the U.S. alone, 18.5 percent of citizens will suffer from mental illness. 4 percent will suffer so much that it will significantly affect their lives. But when you put a microscope on the tech industry, those figures become incredibly worrying.

According to a study by Michael Freeman, founders are 3X more likely to suffer from substance abuse, 10X more likely to have bipolar disorder, and 2X more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

“Mental health is as essential for knowledge work in the 21st century as physical health was for physical labor in the past. Creativity, ingenuity, insight, brilliance, planning, analysis, and other executive functions are often the cognitive cornerstones of breakthrough value creation by entrepreneurs” – Michael Freeman.

And it is really no surprise that entrepreneurs are under so much pressure that they break.

When you start a business, you are scrambling to survive until you can take other people’s money to build your vision. Those people typically expect a return on that investment, increasing the pressure to create something that makes a profit. The founder then has to employ staff and is now responsible for the roof over their heads, and the food on their tables.

That’s a lot of pressure, even with a perfectly working product or service. Imagine how much worse it gets when things go wrong, or consumers don’t like what you have to offer.

Founders also suffer in other ways

Many chose themselves as a leader, without the necessary leadership skills. These are clever, driven people that have identified a need, but they aren’t necessarily cut out to survive the founder journey.

Entrepreneurs are constantly being told to “hustle” and are overworking themselves in the hope that they’ll become an overnight success. Often, the hard work they experience is due to the fact they have to do jobs they are not suited for because startup life requires a level of flexibility not usually found in one person. Learning new skills is a positive thing, but it becomes incredibly difficult when you’re learning in a pressure-cooker environment.

There is so much that the industry can be doing to help reduce the number of people in the tech industry — not just founders — that are self-harming, being self-destructive, or committing suicide. In a hard-hitting keynote and panel discussion at TechChill, I’ll be detailing the issues in much more detail, highlighting the ways we can all help (and help ourselves), and then discuss the issues openly with experts who either can help resolve the issues or are living through them. 

 

 

Written by Stewart Rogers, Analyst-at-large VentureBeat

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Stewart Rogers has over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, managing, and mentoring in tech. He is a journalist, author, and speaker on AI, AR/VR, blockchain, and other emerging technology industries, and is the Analyst-at-large VentureBeat. Prior to VentureBeat, Rogers ran a number of successful software companies and held global roles in sales and marketing for businesses around the world. Rogers also emcees major tech events across the globe and is a co-founder at Tribe of Why, an organization headquartered in Marrakech that helps people find their purpose and set their intentions.

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