Skip to Main Content
Attend our Black Innovation Summit on May 28
The Review

Breaking the mental health taboo


It’s no secret that entrepreneurial success rarely comes without a price.

The heavy toll business ownership can take on one’s mental health is a dark secret rarely shared. A fear of failure, constant pursuit of greatness and long days followed by even longer nights can push even the most ambitious entrepreneur to their breaking point.

In today’s world where the trials and tribulations of even fictional founders are idolized, it should come as no surprise that psychological health is often all but ignored. In fact, a recent study found that a whopping 72 per cent of entrepreneurs self-reported as having mental health concerns, not a surprise for many in the startup community that have already come face-to-face with high rates of Founder’s Blues.
However it’s one that Abdullah Snobar knows all too well. The executive director of the DMZ at Toronto Metropolitan University — the number one university-based incubator in North America and third in the world — and founder of TEDxRyerson is someone that many could easily describe as “successful” and ironically a strong proponent of (surprise, surprise) mental health services. More importantly, he knows how useful it can be for people like himself in the startup industry where appearance can sometimes trump reality.

“There’s a misconception that people who are Type-A and successful are free from mental health challenges. If a person has a busy, fulfilling life and looks accomplished and happy from the outside, they must not struggle with mental health issues,” he says in an op-ed originally published in the Globe and Mail.

“It’s a misconception that’s reinforced every time I browse my Instagram feed, LinkedIn profile and even walk past the sea of smiling faces at various conferences. Everywhere I look, I see no obvious signs of mental health stresses. And herein lies the problem.”

Enter: TranQool, a Toronto-based startup that connects patients with therapists for video chat sessions. The goal? By reducing physical barriers, costs and stigma that accompanies mental health counselling, the startup wants to give anyone the ability to seek out the help they need no matter where they are.

A lot of times we [entrepreneurs] actually hide ourselves in the work that we do and avoid the reality of life by working extra hours, which sometimes leads to burnout and depression,” said Chakameh Shafii, the company’s co-founder and CEO

Through the company, Canadians can set up a free customizable profile that lets them detail their concerns. Afterwards, patients are then matched with a therapist within five minutes.

Not everyone may feel comfortable with seeking out therapy online, but it’s a unique technological solution to a problem that has long plagued the startup space. For those who don’t have a personal self-care plan simply recognizing how crucial mental health wellbeing is to long-term success is the first step and a smart way to combat the dreaded Founder’s Blues before it ever takes hold.

If you’re a DMZ entrepreneur looking for more ways to improve your mental health, you can access the free counselling sessions the DMZ is providing through our community partner TranQool – an online tool connecting you with accredited cognitive behavioural therapists.

For other individuals looking for local mental health services there are a variety of local resources offered by the following institutions and the city of Toronto.

Mental Health Helpline
Information about mental health services and supports in your community and across Ontario.

Distress Centres of Toronto
Telephone call centre for people needing emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

Community Resource Connections of Toronto
Search directory for addictions and mental health programs, housing, crisis services, and basic needs services.

Oolagen Community Services
For youth 13-18 years of age and their families who live in Toronto that require mental health assistance.