Thilo Beck at WEF Roundtable - A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society

Goals House Roundtable, World Economic Forum, Davos – Thilo Beck

A Roadmap to Sustainable Health and Better Well-being in the Workforce and Society: Elaborating on Key Points.   We are living through a historical period defined by uncertainty, which is having a profound impact on our mental health. Research shows that – on average, 15% of working-age adults live with a mental health condition globally,…

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Affluent Neglect

Society expresses great concern for poor, underserved children and the increased likelihood they may lack access to health care and education, or that they may turn to drugs or crime in adulthood. Less attention is paid to children of affluent parents who have their own set of problems. Emotional neglect often goes unnoticed or unreported, which may…

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What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph. in the 1980s, is a type of talk therapy originally designed for high-risk, suicidal people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Today, DBT is used to treat people struggling with a range of complex and intense emotions, including substance abuse and addiction, PTSD, bipolar disorder, eating disorders,…

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The Pandemic-Push: Why are so Many People Suddenly Buying Prescription Drugs Online?

Prescription-med sales skyrocket due to the pandemic, but when does use become abuse? Paracelsus Recovery’s experts weigh in. More and more people are illegally purchasing prescription medication such as anxiety or sleeping pills online as the pandemic takes its toll on our wellbeing. The pandemic has left a mental health crisis in its wake. Rates…

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Number Of CEOs Struggling To Cope Is Rising

1. The Personality Traits that Make a Strong Leader Also Cause Mental Health Issues.

The line between effective leadership and burnout is growing increasingly thin as pressures continue to mount in boardrooms across the world.


If you type ‘what makes a good leader’ into google, you will usually find answers like ‘they are self-aware, they focus on developing others, encourage innovation and are determined.’ However, to be capable of acquiring and acting on these qualities, we need empathy, perfectionism, courage, and a constant striving to be better. While these are wonderful traits to aspire to, they are also highly correlated with mental health issues like burnout, anxiety, and depression. Substance abuse continues to skyrocket amongst C-Suite executives. It is lonely at the top and in our experience, CEOs tend to turn to substance abuse dependency as a coping mechanism for mental health issues brought on by the traits that also make them excellent leaders.

For example, effective leaders often struggle to strike a balance with the ‘three A’s’:


  •   Adrenaline

C-suite positions often attract individuals uniquely capable of thriving in stressful environments. For instance,  research (2017) conducted by McGill University in Canada found that 'sensation seekers,' otherwise known as adrenaline junkies, make the best CEOs. This is because these attributes enable them to take more significant risks and strive for innovation, leading to a greater market impact than their peers. However, as the name implies, adrenaline can be addictive and if prolonged over an extended period, it can wreak havoc on both our physical and psychical health.

 Specifically, studies (2018) note that adrenaline releases stress hormones into our bodies, which, if prolonged, can detrimentally affect our brain's capacity to store memories and regulate emotions. It is vital to remember that there is a fine line between using stress productivity and drowning under the weight of it. To prevent the latter ensuing, Harvard Business Review emphasizes the benefits of meditation for CEOs, while other studies have noted the importance of good sleep hygiene.


  •   Altruism

Additionally, despite the stereotypes that permeate society, it has been noted that one of the most important characteristics required in a leader is altruism. Thus, while the combination of these traits can make these individuals driven and ambitious, one can see how it can also lead to putting the needs of the company and employees far before their own, potentially to the point of burnout. If the latter occurs, a downward spiral can ensue because their presence in the public eye can make it feel impossible to ask for help, for fear that it will negatively affect the company.


  •   Anxiety

Furthermore, while the link between creative genius and mental illness within the arts is well-known, its predominance in the C-Suite is often underemphasized. Entrepreneurs are exceptionally creative individuals, and our experts highlight that "highly creative individuals may be more predisposed to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety." However, one can see how the personality traits that enable them to flourish, such as rigorous perfectionism, a harsh inner critic, and a capacity to look at the world differently, can result in their health taking the backburner as they wholly commit themselves to the success of the company.

Creative minds are often highly in-tune with their environments, while altruism reflects a strong empathic capacity to engage with those around them. If an individual has these traits, it can be a great aid for one's mental health to ensure they give themselves the time and space to process all of this external information. 

Click here to find our expert-driven advice on how CEOs can look after their mental health.


2. CEOs are Lonely, Here’s Why.

The covid-19 pandemic has drastically increased loneliness levels across the world. Unfortunately, at Paracelsus Recovery, we have noticed that wealthy individuals are particularly at risk because it is too often literally lonely at the top. For example, C-Suite executives often find themselves surrounded by opportunists, and as a result, their faith in others' kindness takes a drastic, if necessary, hit. Social connections are essential to ensure robust mental health, but they are built on compassion and trust. If an individual must question other people’s intentions consistently, then it won’t be easy for them to connect with people.


What’s more, success comes with the implicit expectation to always feel, or at least appear, ‘happy and fulfilled.’ This is especially true during the pandemic, when some of us were going through heart-breaking suffering and stress.


But it also means that when an individual’s health struggles because of the genuine stress that comes with the C-Suite, managing wealth or living in the public eye, they can feel as though they are failing at being successful, which prolongs suffering in isolation. This is particularly common for CEOs, whose unbalanced work-life ratio detrimentally impacts their levels of stress and loneliness, but stigmas prevent them from speaking out.


The Lonely Corner Office

 For example, as a result of their unbalanced work/life ratio, many CEOs have little to no boundaries between their personal and private lives. As a result, they can grow increasingly estranged from both themselves and their loved ones without even noticing. This is because, while they might spend all day conversing with other people, these surface-level interactions are focused on the wellbeing of the company, not the individual. In addition, while their job requires them to be immersed in goal-orientated conversations, being a CEO is a profoundly lonely position. These individuals will know everything there is to know about their company, and when difficulties arise, that can be an immense burden. They will have to hold the weight of an entire organisation on their shoulders, but not let on how heavy that weight is to their employees.

What's more, research (2012) has shown that in a survey of 83 CEOs, 61% noted that the lack of anyone to confide in hinders their job performance. CEOs face enormous challenges, such as having to carry the weight of the company on their shoulders, which can induce stress-levels that wreak-havoc on their wellbeing. Studies (2002) show that prolonged exposure to high-stress levels can result in sleep disturbances, a weakened immune system, or cardiovascular disease. More notably still, stress can affect the quality of our emotional bonds, thereby compounding existing loneliness. Both stress and isolation are two critical environmental factors that can lead to the development of anxiety or depression. Thus, the C-Suite can be an immensely challenging environment for wellbeing, making it vital to ensure an employer's mental health is as much a priority for the boardroom as employees. 

Chronic loneliness is not only painful in and of itself, but it can also increase an individual’s likelihood of developing addiction and depression – which studies (2013; 2008) have shown are both more common in CEOs than the general population. Our experts suggest that to avoid the loneliness which pervades in boardrooms – and the mental health problems it brings with it - a CEO needs to ensure that they have a support system available to them. For example, finding someone who is, or once was, a CEO themselves will drastically improve feelings of loneliness because they can empathise with the nuances of your position.


Breaking the Stigma

Loneliness not only poses a risk for our psychological health, but it is also dangerous for our physical wellbeing. It contributes to premature death and has a mortality rate of 26-32% - akin to a heavy smoker. To combat this silent killer, we must speak out and challenge the stigma that prevents individuals in positions of power, and their families, from articulating how they, too, have been affected by mental illness, and their experience of loneliness at the top.



3. Three Strategies for Looking After Your Mental Health in the C-Suite 

 C-suite executives are nearly 20% more likely to struggle with mental health than their employees. Read on to find out why the boardroom is struggling and how you can address it.


C-Suite executives worldwide are navigating the stress of keeping a business running during a global lockdown, supporting their families, and ensuring their employees can meet their own responsibilities. However, for many CEOs, it has been impossible to achieve all of these goals. As a result, difficult emotions such as guilt, powerlessness, and a sense of failure can arise. On top of that, CEOs often report higher levels of loneliness than their employees while the expectation to seem bulletproof only isolates them further.


We are slowly entering a post-pandemic world and let’s try to make it a stigma-free and healthy one. To do that, it is vital that C-Suite execs start addressing mental health in the workplace. But to do that, you first need to look after your own.


Our Experts Recommend:


  •   Combat the Dangerous Idea that Self-Neglect = Success

 To reach the top of your profession, it requires many long nights and sacrifices. Most C-Suite executives have worked 60+ hour weeks for years and are highly dedicated to their jobs and they care for their teams and employees. But, as a result, as many CEOs know, it can often lead to self-neglect. 


While ambition and altruism are undeniably admirable traits, it is important to remember that you need to care for yourself, not just your employees. If you continue to put your job and everyone else before yourself, you dramatically increase your chances of developing depression, burning out or turning to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. 


To do that, try to give yourself a set amount of time each week where you turn your phone off and focus on something completely unrelated to your work. It could be one hour, a whole day, or even just fifteen minutes, but try to keep up the routine. 


  •   Build a Support Network 

In pre-pandemic times, over 60% of CEOs said that they suffered from loneliness. For many of those leaders, isolating alone pushed their mental health over the edge. If you are struggling, try to reach out to other C-Suite executives who will understand the specificities of your unique position. If you fear there is no one to speak to, seek help from a professional.


  •   Do Something for Yourself

 One of the most sure-fire ways to boost productivity and increase mental clarity is to do something completely unrelated to your job. It is also vital that you have something you can do to help you switch off at the end of the day. Try to spend at least a few hours a week on an old hobby you used to love or a passion-project you have been meaning to start. If you do not have the time for either of these, even just spending time mindlessly completing a jigsaw or app on your phone can help.


In conclusion, above all else, if you are struggling, seek professional help as soon as possible. If you are worried about confidentiality issues, there are numerous treatment centres that can guarantee absolute confidentiality. At Paracelsus Recovery, we do so by only ever having one client at any given time. Contact us at to learn more.