Depression in the C-suite

The recent suicides of Anthony ...

Posted: Aug 7, 2018 1:48 PM
Updated: Aug 7, 2018 1:48 PM

The recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade are a sad reminder that success is no guarantee of happiness.

Those at the top of their industries are no more protected than the rest of us from depressive symptoms or full-blown clinical depression.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs might even be more vulnerable because of the outsized stresses of their jobs and the traits that have brought them success in the first place.

The genesis of a depressive episode can be biological or external — for example, a personal loss, a health crisis, business troubles or legal woes. Or it could be spurred by a collision between personal values and company actions, like compromising safety for profit, said psychologist Peter Pearson.

What's more, the stresses executives face, combined with fears of not delivering, may be compounded by social media. Relative to the days when no one really knew who the CEO was, "social media has a way of amplifying expectations and pressuring people to perform for a broader audience," said psychotherapist and executive coach Steven Berglas.

Related: Being CEO can kill a marriage. Here's how to prevent that

Of course it's cliche to say it's lonely at the top, but it is. And many executives have a hard time confiding in others, said psychologist and executive coach Marilyn Puder-York. "A lot of CEOs are confident they can manage on their own and they slip into overdrive."

The last thing they want is to display any weakness or vulnerability to employees and investors.

Depression in the C-suite has gained attention in Silicon Valley lately, where ever-growing expectations and capital for promising startups can overwhelm anyone.

One study found nearly 50% of entrepreneurs reported having a mental health condition. A full 30% reported a lifetime history of depression.

Disengagement and inability to concentrate can be key signs of a depressive episode.

Venture capitalist Mahendra Ramsinghani says, "as investors our duties are to support the founders. ... I've seen founders who are struggling. You see that they are clearly not with it — they may appear stressed and are not taking care of themselves."

Ramsinghani has wanted to find ways to better support those struggling and is currently working on a book about depression among business leaders. He decided to write it after experiencing a dark period in his own life following two suicides by people he knew: Austen Heinz, in whose genomics company he had invested; and a friend and fellow investor who sent Ramsinghani a letter to read to the friend's elderly father in India after his son died.

His book will center in large part around the responses he gets to the anonymous online survey he's posted in which he asks founders and other organizational leaders to share their experiences with depression.

Ramsinghani hopes the book will start a dialogue about the issue.

Even though some executives have gone public with their struggles, many feel they'll be stigmatized if they admit to being depressed. "There's still a sense of shame because depression is perceived as weakness. It's more frequently denied than substance abuse," Berglas said.

What those in denial fail to acknowledge is that depression can be as much a disease as diabetes is, and may require help from drugs and psychotherapy. "You wouldn't eschew the use of insulin, so why eschew psychotherapy?" Berglas notes.

When a CEO or other executive starts to exhibit behavioral or performance problems, they might be assigned an executive coach. But both Berglas and Alyssa Freas, founder of the Executive Coaching Network, stress that if the problems are stemming from depression, no one can coach that out of you. And any ethical coach will recognize that and recommend instead that the executive seek outside help.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93087

Reported Deaths: 2809
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6956155
DeSoto539355
Harrison372772
Jackson337867
Madison320086
Rankin318875
Lee258567
Jones239978
Forrest238270
Washington217471
Lafayette207239
Lauderdale1994124
Bolivar179065
Oktibbeha174750
Lamar162134
Neshoba1534103
Panola144027
Sunflower141144
Lowndes139857
Warren138050
Leflore136280
Pontotoc122516
Pike120948
Monroe118365
Scott116125
Copiah115933
Coahoma112327
Holmes109158
Marshall107515
Lincoln106253
Grenada105335
Yazoo103629
Simpson101243
Union97824
Tate95137
Leake93937
Adams91736
Wayne87421
Pearl River86250
Marion84133
Prentiss80817
Covington80622
Alcorn76811
Newton75623
Itawamba75221
Tallahatchie74918
George74413
Winston72319
Tishomingo65737
Chickasaw65224
Tippah64216
Attala64125
Walthall59325
Clay57117
Hancock56121
Jasper54915
Noxubee54315
Clarke53539
Smith52114
Calhoun50612
Tunica47913
Montgomery45420
Claiborne45116
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41614
Perry40617
Humphreys37315
Quitman3735
Stone35011
Greene34317
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32511
Amite31210
Carroll31212
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2399
Benton2181
Franklin1893
Choctaw1785
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128818

Reported Deaths: 2284
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18911337
Mobile13039289
Montgomery8628173
Madison750775
Tuscaloosa7180114
Lee570559
Shelby564550
Baldwin504749
Marshall382143
Etowah333447
Calhoun332039
Morgan318126
Houston269922
Elmore251947
DeKalb234619
St. Clair221335
Walker220780
Talladega205026
Limestone197319
Cullman183017
Franklin174128
Dallas173626
Russell17112
Autauga167324
Lauderdale164133
Colbert159326
Escambia155725
Blount154214
Jackson149411
Chilton147127
Dale132743
Covington130227
Coffee12708
Pike11519
Tallapoosa113183
Chambers112342
Clarke104917
Marion93728
Butler90838
Barbour8307
Marengo69919
Winston69912
Lowndes64527
Pickens63114
Bibb62810
Hale61228
Randolph60712
Bullock58514
Lawrence58220
Monroe5758
Geneva5634
Cherokee55516
Washington54413
Perry5376
Clay5367
Wilcox53011
Conecuh52311
Crenshaw52231
Macon47620
Henry4674
Fayette4189
Sumter41819
Lamar3452
Choctaw34412
Cleburne3206
Greene30015
Coosa1613
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 65°
Columbus
Few Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 65°
Oxford
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Starkville
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 63°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather