From the outside in, the life of a successful technology executive is something worth envying, period. While filled with hard work, thrill-seekers gawk at the risk-taking and euphoric nature of the tech booms in an ever-evolving and fast paced industry. Yet many fail to recognize the often hidden life of many high-profile tech visionaries, CEOs and investors, who realize that fame and monetary wealth only stretches so far and feel weighed down by the responsibilities resultant of their own lofty ambitions.
When serial entrepreneur Antoine Paquin, one of the leaders of Ottawa’s tech revolution, took his own life after suffering a psychotic break just six months earlier, the community was in shock. But the reality of the matter is that many of the most brilliant minds in the industry suffer from various levels of mental illness and chronic stress.
At the end of his life, Paquin, who was suffering from bipolar disorder, told a friend that he “should have been a priest,” as he sought out meaningful experiences such as a trip to Africa to help the poor. “My life has been full of miracles, starting with the mystery of my own existence,” he posted to Facebook in late 2016.
The tragedy is just one example of how mental illness is pushed under the table in society, especially at the top of the corporate ladder at some of the world’s most influential tech companies.
Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk opened up on Twitter about stress and his mental health after being asked by a follower about his “amazing” picture-perfect life showcased on social media.
“The reality is great highs terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two,” he responded. When questioned on whether he was bipolar or not, Musk said “yeah,” adding “maybe not medically.”
For many successful tech executives, they find they can avoid this internal strife and access deeper meaning through means such as philanthropic work and programs which help employees reach their full potential.
Ultimately, it’s extremely important to keep an open dialogue in the industry about mental health so to avoid the shame and isolation fueling these tragedies.