Meet The Former Executive Leading A Mental Health Movement In Corporate Canada
This article is an exclusive recap of the “Ensuring Mental Resilience for the Relentless Pace” presentation which was covered at the GP-only meeting at #IC18. Canadian private capital general partners discover the importance of mental wellness from Sue Miller, Founder, Mental Wellness Recovery Group at CVCA’s 2018 annual conference, #IC18, in Calgary.
Six years ago, as CEO, Sue Miller sent the founder of the company a simple, two-sentence email over the weekend. “I may not be into the office on Monday. A personal issue has come up,”.
Miller, who was struggling with depression, went forth with her suicide plan but was unsuccessful and woke up in the hospital. Her confidence level plummeted and she was disappointed that her suicide attempt did not work.
Miller had been battling mental health issues while growing the company. “It wasn’t about lack of success,” she shares. “I had just raised a 5‑million-dollar round. But it felt relentless, it felt like it didn’t matter.”
Miller, the former president of two billion-dollar revenue companies says her suicide attempt led her to learn about the mental wellness of entrepreneurs. “When I got out [of the hospital], I wanted to know, why did this happen? So, I went on a quest to learn how to prevent this.”
Miller began learning about the stress hormone, cortisol, and its link with mental wellness. Cortisol is released in response to fear or stress and it reduces a person’s cognitive abilities. Elevated cortisol levels increase the likelihood of depression and mental illness – which entrepreneurs are particularly at risk for, given their work in a high-stress, quick-response environment.
Miller says general partners and entrepreneurs are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues because their work often increases their cortisol levels. “They care a lot about their portfolios, they care a lot about the return and so they have had experiences, quite a few of them, of death by suicide of their peers– and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s happening underneath,” Miller says.
Sue Miller is now the founder of Mental Wellness Recovery Group which helps address the gap in mental health services by providing peer-lead mental wellness recovery groups. She shares her personal story in the hope of putting mental wellness at the forefront and encouraging people to take action on improving their resilience. There are four areas Miller says people can focus on to reduce their chronic high cortisol levels.
Breathe: Take deep, slow belly breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. In 3 minutes, take 6 breaths and do this 2 – 4 times per day.
Be present: Don’t think about one thing while doing something else. Multitasking is less productive and increases cortisol, so focus on only one task at a time. Meditate or alternatively, engage in any religious practice to reduce your cortisol levels.
Move: Encourage movement within your body, but be careful of high intensity and endurance exercises, as this will raise your cortisol levels rather than reduce them.
Repair: Get enough sleep. Cut down on sugar, coffee and alcohol and drink more water instead. If you need support, look into mental wellness coaching.
Miller says that to ensure mental resilience amongst the people they work with, the first thing GPs can do is model healthy behaviour. She also recommends making information on mental wellness available in group sessions to investees rather than targeting a particular investee, who won’t want to make their weakness or struggle known to the GP. Finally, GPs can consider making mental wellness funds available to support investees, which would ideally be delivered by a third-party who can provide confidential services.
Sue Miller’s presentation was part of a GP-only meeting at CVCA’s annual conference, held in Calgary on June 5 – 7, 2018. During the meeting, experts led discussions to inform members on issues of pertinence including fundraising trends in Canada and how GPs can deal with recent tax changes.
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For more tips on how to stay calm under stress, watch this TED talk on the topic.
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