By John Tucker
1st Capital Loans LLC
Jokingly, my closest friends refer to me as "bipolar" because my mood is seemingly always on a roller coaster ride of feeling on top of the world one minute, and then feeling as if the world is coming to an end the next. But these emotional swings are mainly due to the fact that I am financially and psychologically invested in my merchant account and merchant cash advance deals.
When things are progressing well from prospecting, to pipeline, to underwriting, to funding/boarding, I feel almost in a state of euphoria. But when there are delays, declines, or when my merchants leave the process or even cancel their merchant accounts, I sometimes feel completely despondent.
I'll go from extremely happy to extremely sad within hours and, quite frankly, it's been this way for the majority of the more than 10 years I've worked within this industry. However, because I've been called bipolar so many times, jokingly or not, in 2015 I scheduled an appointment with a mental health counselor to see if I might have some sort of manic depression.
Fortunately, I was not diagnosed with any type of manic depression, personality disorder or mental health issue. Nevertheless, while we usually roast one another using labels from the mental health profession, from time to time, the people we are roasting might actually have some form of manic depression or other mental health condition – and not know about it.
One main reason I'm quarterbacking this run on Street SmartsSM is because I believe strongly that it's my job to discuss realities of our profession that are often overlooked. From the business-to-business sales cycle, to how out of touch most ISO recruiters and sales managers are, to the mom-and-pop matrix, to being a minimalist, most topics I've discussed have never been discussed at this level before within our profession. I believe these topics are not addressed because they predominantly relate to the "small guy," and nobody cares much about the "small guy" in payments.
For this article, I want to discuss another reality that many small guys and gals (and some big fish) in our space are battling: mental health conditions. This is a call to action. Whether or not you have an issue, there's nothing wrong with doing routine, annual or biannual mental health examinations.
Financial services representatives (predominately those involved in selling aspects) rank among what Mental Health Daily (http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/01/06/top-11-professions-with-highest-suicide-rates/) reported are among the top five professions that have a suicide rate 1.5 times higher than the suicide rate for individuals in most other professions. "The finance industry is full of people making a lot of money, yet consistently has above average suicide rates," Mental Health Daily stated. "It is thought that among those who work in the financial industry, the suicide rate is approximately 1.51 times that of an average worker."
While this section of the article goes more into the equity trading side of the financial services industry, our space is included within this metric, as we operate on the debt financing side, which can be just as stressful (if not more) as the equity trading side.
Additional research has shown that other mental health disorders run rampant among those working in the financial services industry. Among them are depression (the most common); psychogenic pain disorders related to high levels of stress; post-traumatic stress disorders; and panic disorders.
A July 7, 2015, MarketWatch Inc. article by Quentin Fottrell covered this issue and highlighted how many individuals in the financial services industry are turning to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
The article discussed Thomas Hughes, who at the age of 29, jumped to his death from the 24th floor of his apartment building in Manhattan. Individuals who knew Hughes said he was dealing with significant amounts of stress and other pressures, and he turned to certain types of drugs and alcohol to help him cope.
The article also discusses Sarvshreshth Gupta, a 22-year-old analyst found dead in a parking lot beneath his apartment building. MarketWatch stated, "Although the media does focus on people who, at least on paper, appear to have it all, experts say this is also a reminder that depression doesn't discriminate. While suicide rates overall remain lower among those who have more education, there have been reports of a dozen such cases of suicide of white-collar workers who worked for high-profile financial firms.
"Among the professions with suicide rates 1.5 times or more than the rest of the population are doctors, dentists, veterinarians, financial workers, lawyers, and engineers, according to the CDC National Occupational Mortality Surveillance Database."
Let's face it: our industry is mind-numbingly stressful. As competition increases, profit margins shrink, operational costs rise, markets and solutions become more complex, and compliance with regulations becomes more burdensome; a merchant level salesperson's (MLS's) job intensifies. If you are an MLS who also has a family to support, the stress further amasses as you try to juggle increasingly complex commercial and personal objectives.
Even if you have been juggling a lot of these aspects for an extended period of time and feel okay, it's time to monitor the state of your mental health.
Find a trusted, experienced mental health counselor in your area. Set up an appointment to assess your condition and confirm that you are okay. If you do have a mental health condition, it might not require hospitalization; psychotherapy or peer/support groups could provide the requisite aid.
When mass shootings occur, the media typically interviews people who were close to the perpetrator(s). They talk about how the individual(s) displayed signs of a mental health problem. However, none of these people mention actions they took to warn officials, get the individual help or improve the situation, having instead often mocked, teased or roasted the soon-to-be perpetrator.
This is a fundamental flaw of many communities today; we don't seem to care about our neighbors, family members or friends anymore until after a major sickness, mental breakdown or death occurs.
Your mental health is a serious issue. Just as many of you complete routine physical health exams every year, it's time to put as much emphasis on routine mental health exams as well.
We are in a highly competitive, stressful industry. Thus, your career may have already taken a serious toll on your mental health without you even being aware of it. You could be on the verge of a mental breakdown. I would not want that to happen to you now or in the future. So mind your mental health because doing so is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle.
John Tucker has over 10 years of professional experience in commercial finance and business development. He is also an M.B.A. graduate and holder of three bachelor's degrees in accounting, business management and journalism. To connect with John, please send him a connection invite via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/johntucker99 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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