During our Coffee time, we discussed a key social issue facing all entrepreneurs: mental health.
The life of an entrepreneur comes with a host of challenges, both large and small. Whether you’re building a business or dealing with more personal issues, it can be hard to know when to stop to take a breath in order to figure out the best way forward. One solution is to adopt tools to better understand yourself and your needs in order to help yourself cope with the ups and downs of day-to-day life.
During our chat with Martin Enault, who serves as Chairman of the Board of Relief and lives with mental health issues himself, we got to know him a bit better, delve into the topic and explore the different types of support available.
“Entrepreneurship has always been a part of my life. My father was an entrepreneur, and it was a way of life I was always drawn to. I started my first company when I was 16. It seemed like the most logical way for me to build a career since, being dyslexic and living with chronic anxiety and depression, school made me very anxious and was really challenging for me. I got good grades overall, but I certainly didn’t have an easy time keeping up in class.
I realized that I needed to create my own niche in the workplace because the existing areas weren’t really for me. I worked for Ticketpro, launched Intellitix, the first company in the world to provide RFID access control, served as COO of C2 Montréal, and was a partner at C2 International. I’ve navigated a range of industries, with a focus on entertainment and technology. This made me realize how much of what I thought was entrepreneurship didn’t really fit into that category.
When I got started close to 24 years ago, there weren’t any incubators like Centech. As I saw the incubator and entrepreneur industry emerge, they were often modelled after Silicon Valley and embraced the idea that you had to get shareholders and venture capital as quickly as possible, and I never understood why. That’s when I came to Centech and learned about its philosophy: ‘We don’t create startups, we create companies.’ That’s much more realistic and in line with my own philosophy
I believe that we can contribute to and build a healthy ecosystem that isn’t based on entrepreneurs who sacrifice themselves, who are sick, who don’t eat, who can’t make a living and who destroy all of their relationships. Rather, we can build companies where they can be comfortable and work in a reasonable environment.”
“It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment. I started experiencing mental health issues when I began to consider being an entrepreneur. At the time, the term ‘mental health issues’ hadn’t been invented yet. People didn’t really talk about anxiety; they talked about stress. I’d taken courses on how to manage stress in school since I was on a sports scholarship, which helped a bit. But to truly understand the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression, to understand that you might no longer be able to find the energy or be able to function, that you could have panic attacks along with severe heart palpitations, that you could pass out or lose your sight… Those were the symptoms I experienced. It took me a really long time to understand what was going on. I was constantly going to emergency rooms, around the world and in Montreal, for what I thought were physical issues but ended up being related to my anxiety and depression.”
“I started to get involved in mental health 14 years ago, so it’s been a while. But, at that time, I was just starting to think that there might be a connection. Then Guy Latraverse, who was Chairman of the Board at Relief, asked me to join the board of directors, and (laugh) I began to realize that I might have mental health issues!
Gradually, as it began to sink in, I started to see that many other entrepreneurs and co-workers were suffering from issues that they couldn’t name.
Little by little, I started to make the connection. Seven or eight years ago, I realized that money wasn’t the problem facing entrepreneurs. Sure, it’s a problem in the beginning, but entrepreneurs are quickly unable to cope because they weren’t taught how to manage life’s natural ups and downs. If you try to pretend that mental health problems and issues don’t exist in a company, you’re just creating a lie that grows.
It feeds narcissistic personalities and encourages them to hide their issues, which can sink companies more than money problems.
Joining Relief essentially helped me understand my own mental health, because you can’t just take a pill and feel better. If you don’t take charge of your mental health, nothing will work. It’s a shared responsibility. No doctor or psychologist can heal you on their own. You have to help them do it, and you need tools for that. Relief provides the tools you need to understand how to talk about what you’re going through, understand the roles doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists play… The ways in which they can help if you tell them how… That’s where Relief is most helpful. We have specialized programs for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and self-esteem, as well as corporate programs to help people maintain good mental health. Relief helps approximately 15,000 to 20,000 people a year through its services and trains more than 100 other community organizations so that they have tools and services in their networks.”
“Don’t wait until you hit a wall before seeking help for your mental health. Regardless of whether you’re living with anxiety, depression or something else, you can improve your quality of life by making it a reflex to seek help before then.
For me, it’s about not hitting a wall because it makes you feel like you’re alone, (laugh) but that isn’t the case at all.
In most cases, when I give a talk and ask people to raise their hand if they’re living with a mental health issue, almost everyone raises their hand when we explain what that means. They realize that plenty of people are going through the same thing, regardless of the community. You really aren’t as isolated as you think, and when you talk about your issues, you realize that it normalizes them and that you’re not only one experiencing them.”
“Oh, boy, there are plenty! A moment I was embarrassed about but am proud to talk about now… The truth is that for much of my life, I was embarrassed on a daily basis to stand up in front of people, speak in public or say anything about myself. It made me nauseous.
To be able to do what I do today—coach others, give talks, all of it—would have been impossible just 10 years ago.
Back then, I felt alone, humiliated and self-conscious all the time. At every meeting, I felt like I’d said the wrong thing and that others were going to see me differently. That was true for a large chunk of my life, not just during one particular time.”
“I’d wish for others to realize that they don’t have to live the life that society imposes on them.
We live with so much nonsense these days, which was created by marketing firms and governments acting more out of self-interest than for society, and we’re convinced that it’s how we have to live. If we could truly live the lives we want rather than the ones that others want for us, I think we could do so much more and be much happier. That’s what I wish for everyone.”
Communications – Centech
If you need support, want to know more or find out what resources are available, https://cause.bell.ca/outils-et-ressources/des-ressources-daide-et-de-soutien/
If you’re in immediate danger or need urgent medical support, call 911.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566.
Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For residents of Quebec, call 1-866-277-3553 or visit suicide.ca
Visit Talk Suicide Canada for the distress centres and crisis organizations nearest you.