The Founder Wellness Pact: How Accelerators are Addressing Depression Among Founders
By Patrick Riley on April 12th, 2017
Most of us have experienced depression or anxiety in one form or another. Whether we have personally faced it or watched a family member or founder struggle through it, we’ve seen how it can impact our work, our relationships, and the overall health of those going through it along with the people who care about them.
The GAN community has dealt with the impact that depression can lead to as two founders in the past year have committed suicide. When we get this horrible news, it absolutely breaks our hearts. I was at the Rise of the Rest conference last month when I heard the news about the second founder who committed suicide, and I got pretty emotional. While I know this isn’t a problem unique to accelerators, I know we can take actions as a group to help prevent this from happening again.
At the last GAN Summit, I was proud and honored to be around a group of GAN MDs who wanted to put together a pact for the ways we could support the overall health of founders going through a GAN accelerator program. While we can’t be 100% responsible for the mental and emotional well-being of our founders, we can take reasonable steps to provide an environment that allows them to thrive as humans and entrepreneurs. Here are the ten things those GAN accelerators committed to doing for founders in our programs:
- Introduce the topic of Founder Wellness at the beginning of every accelerator program, which will cover what it means to maintain personal and professional wellness as an entrepreneur
- Look at our culture and be upfront and honest about what negative behaviors our accelerator programs may be promoting
- Educate ourselves on the signs of depression to be able to recognize those as early as possible
- Regularly listen to our founders and provide an open door for them to talk with the leaders of each accelerator
- Host a weekly, off the record meeting with the purpose of giving founders the chance to provide status updates for both personal and professional well-being
- Give each team a coach or mental health counselor or the resources to find one
- Celebrate the small wins of each founder
- Promote balance between a founder’s work and rest
- Commit to one full day dedicated to “Founder Wellness” during the program where accelerators get out of the office to do a hike, plan a fun activity or something else that cares for founders
- Encourage founders to ask for help if they’re struggling
While this list isn’t exhaustive by any means, it’s a great start for the actions we can take to help founders while they are in our programs.
As part of the GAN’s commitment, we’ve also contracted with certified counselors at Foundations Family Counseling who have worked with numerous startup founders, and beginning this week they have agreed to offer any GAN founder a free counseling session to talk through any issue where they’re struggling. If they want more support, the team at Foundations is equipped to counsel founders on a weekly or bi-weekly basis of which the GAN is providing funding to help subsidize the cost for any founder who needs to talk with a counselor on an ongoing basis.
Finally, we know that we can’t solve every issue and don’t want to give the impression that we can. If you know of a founder who has a crisis situation, they should immediately call the Suicide Prevention Hotline if you’re in the States. That number is: +1.800.273.8255 and you can also chat with them online here. If you’re outside the States, you can find your country’s Suicide Hotline here.
This is really important. We’re excited to take one step forward in helping founders in this way and ease some of the burdens on our founders.
*GAN Founders, if you’d like to speak with a certified counselor send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, all emails to and from this address are confidential. This email is not monitored by GAN as it will go directly to Foundations, you will receive a response within one business day from our partners at Foundations Family Counseling. This will only go to the counseling group, and no one will see your request except for certified counselors who are required to keep any conversation confidential due to the United States’ HIPPA regulations.