Did you know that 72% of entrepreneurs self-report mental health concerns?

At The Generator, we’re not surprised by these stats, because we’ve supported our own fair share of startups struggling with mental health challenges - resulting in co-founder breakups, to burnout.

So why is it that startup founders are so prone to mental health concerns, or even mental illness?

Based on an extensive study of 242 entrepreneurs carried out by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are significantly more likely to report a lifetime history of mental health conditions than non-entrepreneurs.

Freeman reports:

“The findings of this study are important because they suggest an underlying relationship between entrepreneurship and many of the affective, cognitive, and behavioral differences associated with mental health conditions.”

If this comes as a shock to you - it shouldn’t. Because facing challenges and adversity if often the breeding ground for creative thought, and the drive to make a difference in the world.

This precondition is just half of the story.

The other half lies in the fact that startups are really really hard, and can easily push founders (and employees) to experience all kinds of mental illnesses.

So the hard truth for founders is - chances are you’ll experience at least one mental health condition at some point in the startup journey.

This might be a hard truth to swallow, but at least we’ve completed the first step to solving this problem - to accept that there is one.

Before we jump into how the startup ecosystem can solve this problem, we need to acknowledge that when it comes to addressing mental health, this topic is often a social Taboo.

Because the negative social stigma around this topic is strong, and in many circles, consideration of your mental health is perceived as a sign of weakness.

Let’s pause here for a second and take Einstein's advice - “we cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used to create them”.

So let’s shift our thinking about mental health from how it restricts us, to how it can empower us;

“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...

...Depression, anxiety and mood disorders all actively work to undermine founder performance. They often contribute to burnout, co-founder conflict, toxic company culture, increased employee turnover, an inability to hire top talent, an inability to “show up” for important meetings and pitches and poor decision making in general.” - Michael Freeman

Not to mention that 65% of startups that fail because of avoidable people-problems (e.g. co-founder conflict).

Which shows us that maintaining good mental health is a win-win situation for founders (/everyone), and is a process of empowerment, and not a sign of weakness.

To make this conversation a little more digestible for everyone, let’s change up some terminology. Let’s change;

mental health to mental fitness
Therapist or psychologist to wellbeing coach

So how can we go about improving and maintaining our mental fitness?

At The Generator, we’ve been thinking long and hard about this question. Because the results are in, and the startup ecosystem needs to start proactively addressing this mental illness epidemic amongst founders.

So this year we’re proud to announce that we’ve taken our first step in the right direction to positively shifting the culture around mental health amongst founders, and to increase the overall level of mental fitness amongst our 2019 Accelerator founders.

SHAPE are a team of wellbeing coaches specialised in maintaining and improving the mental fitness of startup founders - who we’ve engaged to be a core part of our 2019 Accelerator program and offering.

SHAPE’s approach focuses on helping founders identify and understand their stress response, and provides strategies they can use to improve their mental fitness and overall well-being.

Keeping our founders fighting fit (cognitively), and in the best possible condition to scale the  perilous mental mountains that startups are.


If you’re a founder, or not, and want to start working on your mental fitness, here are a few tips;

If you’re a Founder (or not), Accelerator or VC, reach out to SHAPE

  • Check out their website HERE.

Or - get government subsidised therapy (coaching) sessions;

1 - Get a mental health (fitness) plan from your GP 

  • You can ask any GP for this.
  • You'll probably have to answer some questions before they give it to you.
  • This gives you $85 off per session with a therapist (coach).
  • You can get up to 10 government subsidised sessions per calendar year.
  • If you don’t yet have a psychologist/therapist(/coach) - ask your GP to address the plan to “dear psychologist” - this will mean you can use it with any psychologist, rather than a specified one.

2 - Find a psychologist/therapist (coach)

  • They typically range between $150-250/session.
  • You get $85 back on your mental health plan per session.
  • If you have friends who are psychologists, ask them for recommendations.
  • Try THIS psychologist finder tool.
  • Ask your GP for recommendations.
  • Call the psychologists/therapist and interview them to see if they’re a good fit for you.

Trust us, you won’t regret investing in your mental fitness.