The Vital Role of Community in Mental Health Support

May 28, 2017

10:30 am

The American Psychological Association has found that 65 percent of Americans cite work as a top source of stress, and over a third have a chronic problem with it as a result. Stressful environments, combined with the canned air common to the typical work cubical, are havok for your health, both physical and mental. What can help? A strong community is key.

If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be writing a post discussing my Bipolar disorder for my friends, coworkers, and entire community to see, I wouldn’t have believed you. Thanks to the hard work of my local community in Boulder and Denver, I am not only comfortable writing this post, I am proud.

I am grateful to my community for not labeling me as the ‘crazy guy.’ On the contrary, you’ve embraced me.

You welcomed me back to recovery with open arms and open conversations during Denver Startup Week, you encouraged me while I spoke about my disorder during lightning talks at Galvanize, and not only did you support me through my ups and downs during the Techstars 2016 program, you brought together an entire class to join me.

Now, I am proud to be that little voice saying, ‘hey, you really are not alone’ to entrepreneurs, who are two times as likely to be impacted by a brain (mental) illness. This creative, inspiring, and often ‘crazy’ community has been given a set of gifts that are sometimes accompanied by illness. But as a suicide survivor with a Bipolar disorder, I know that we don’t have to fear these illnesses. We can learn to manage them and thrive (and sometimes even outperform our neurotypical peers).

Although thriving is possible, it isn’t the norm. Despite the over 80 percent effective treatments for brain illness, our community has lost lives over the past year because people were afraid to ask for help.

The problem is less about the disorder and more about the way we handle it.

I believe we can change this and make thriving the norm. We have something special here in Boulder, something that gives us a leg up. We have leaders speaking up about their own struggles, we support each other in difficult times, and we #GiveFirst.

Of course you already know that, because you are the community who helped teach me that in the first place. Well, I’m counting on you to do it again, and to help set an example for other communities. This time not just for me, but for all of us who live with a brain disorder.

I’ve been given a chance that not many with a Bipolar disorder have. With access to the very best of treatment and training for my brain disorder, I have something equivalent to an unofficial PhD in recovery, and now I get to work with leaders and experts in the field every day.

The one thing I know to be absolutely true is that a supportive community is vital to recovery.

Author’s Note: A big thank you to Dave Mayer for paving the way with the Mental Health in the Startup Realm Panel during Boulder Startup Week 2016 alongside Kevin Owocki, Tom Higley, Sarah Jane Coffey, and Brad Feld. An even bigger thank you to the 350+ people who RSVP’d to learn about brain health.

Read about more ways to be a healthy entrepreneur at Tech.Co

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Lance Powers is a founder at Sigmend (Techstars Class 68). His experience as a worker in tech and suicide survivor living with Type I Bipolar disorder give him a unique perspective into the employee experience.

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