Lets Talk About Mental Health in the Technology Sector


Guest author for #movethedial is Dr. Karen Katchen, who has over 35 years of experience as a registered psychologist and executive coach. She works with senior executives and startup teams to build awareness around and strengthen their Emotional Intelligence and build skillsets for performance in this fast paced, high pressure scale up economy.  Dr. Katchen shared her expertise on the importance of investing in mental health on a panel with Bruce Croxon at CIX in October of 2017.

Not only is Bell Canada’s stellar initiative, “Let’s Talk About Mental Health” a prompt to seek help for mental health crises, it is a reminder to care for our mental health much as we do our physical health all year round.

Today I want to address an underreported concern in the fast-growing Canadian Technology Start Up sector – that is building our awareness of the unique stresses that our workplace imposes upon our lives and what you need to do about it. Why is this important?  You may not realize that 41% of Canadians are at high risk for a mental health issue in their lifetime, 36% are so stressed that it affects their daily lives and millennials are two times more likely to take stress leave than any other age group.

First, this is not a question of reducing stress.  It is an action to accept and acknowledge it and become more resilient and prepared to face this sector’s unending stress.

Second, this is not a question of work-life balance, but work-life flow and taking deliberate action to create and maintain important relationships at home, at work and in your wider network.

Third, this is not a question of working harder.  It is taking intentional action to work differently, with frequent breaks, unplugging and perhaps most importantly, making reflective, thinking, creative time for yourself away from your usual work environment, every day.

Fourth, this is not a question of using the latest, greatest de-stressor techniques and apps that everyone talks about.  This is not one size fits all.  It is about actively seeking and putting into regular practice the specific techniques and strategies that work for you, be they mindfulness, yoga, “calm”, “headspace” physical exercise, and/or your unique combination of activities and implementing them regularly.

Fifth, if you are experiencing increased feelings of uncertainty in decision making, reduced performance efficiency, malaise or general fatigue, overwhelming anxiety, anger, or impatience, take action, and ask a professional for help.  A psychologist, coach, social worker or spiritual leader may point you in the direction of accessing timely and very appropriate resources.

Strength comes from self-awareness and being aware of your interpersonal and work environment.  That awareness may prompt you to take care of your mental health.  Recently, VC’s and Founders are realizing that key elements of emotional intelligence are crucial to building capacity for peak performance, sustainability, and scaling up.  Similarly, these elements include real awareness of self and others, communication style, risk taking and impulse control, decision making and stress inoculation to name just a few.

So, when we are prompted to Talk About Mental Health, remember, it is about us taking care of our mental health in our fast moving, highly focused, creative technology environment.

Dr. Katchen can be reached at [email protected]

articleElektra Simms