Addressing mental health in the C-Suite


Stephen Sokoler, founder and CEO of trip.

In today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape, high-level executives and leaders often bear tremendous responsibility. They are expected to make critical decisions, manage teams and drive organizational success. However, in the pursuit of professional achievement, the mental health of executives is often overlooked.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with high-level executives and have seen firsthand the toll the demanding nature of their roles can take on their mental well-being.


The toll of executives

The general demands of the C-suite coupled with the need to maintain a competitive edge often lead to long work hours, less personal time, and limited opportunities for relaxation and self-care.

A study published in Harvard Business Review thought about that 50% of top managers experience significant stress levels, with one in five executives experiencing stress levels that are considered high or extreme. Still, research from the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that executives are often hesitant to seek help because of depression fear of stigmatization and possible negative consequences for their careers.

The consequences of neglecting mental health can be serious. Managers with mental health problems may suffer from reduced productivity, reduced decision-making skills and strained relationships with colleagues and employees.

Tackling mental health: a win-win approach

Prioritizing mental health in the C-suite is not only beneficial to the well-being of individuals, but also essential to the success of organizations. By addressing mental health challenges, executives can improve their overall performance, decision-making capabilities, and leadership skills. When leaders are in a healthy state of mind, they can create a positive work environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and employee engagement.

I view mental health promotion in the C-suite as a comprehensive approach that encompasses both individual and organizational initiatives.

I believe that leaders should cultivate self-awareness and learn to recognize the signs of mental health problems in themselves and their colleagues. In turn, organizations can prioritize mental health by creating a supportive culture that encourages open communication and destigmatizes seeking help.

Successful examples

Several prominent executives have openly shared their mental health experiences and inspired others to prioritize their well-being.

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has been candid about his journey with burnout and the importance of focusing on self-care. Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, is another influential figure in the approach mental health problems in the C suite. Throughout her successful career, she spoke openly about the pressures and sacrifices associated with leadership positions, particularly for women, and emphasized the need for self-care.

Strategies for CEOs

By taking a proactive approach, leaders can successfully manage stress, improve their overall well-being, and set a positive example for others in the C-suite. Based on my experience, here are some effective strategies you can use:

Self-care practices

Executives who prioritize self-care understand the importance of nurturing their physical and mental well-being. They exercise regularly, practice mindfulness techniques, and prioritize getting enough sleep. These practices help them recharge and increase their resilience in the face of demanding responsibilities.

For example, I personally have a morning meditation. I also try to eat healthy to nourish myself throughout the day (although I also love sweets and snacks). I go to the gym daily, but I’m not rigid about it, so if I miss a day or several, I don’t beat myself up about it.

Define borders

Setting boundaries between work and personal life can also help with a leader’s mental health. Find special times for relaxation, hobbies, and quality time with family and friends. Creating a healthy work-life balance can help you avoid burnout and maintain a sense of accomplishment outside of your professional role.

As part of this, I personally make sure to spend quality time with my wife and speak regularly with my mother, brother, and friends. Find those people who charge you.

Seek support and mentorship

I believe that leaders should also actively seek support from mentors, coaches or colleagues. A mindful executive understands the value of seeking guidance and advice from experienced individuals who can provide insight, perspective and support.

As part of this, you can participate in executive coaching programs or participate in peer support groups. I’ve found that social connection is very important to my long-term happiness and preventing burnout.

Open communication

Leaders who successfully manage their mental health tend to foster a culture of open communication within their organizations. They encourage dialogue about mental health, share their own experiences and provide employees with a safe space to talk about their well-being. By destigmatizing mental health issues, you can create an environment where seeking help and support is encouraged and valued.

Delegate and prioritize

Understand the importance of delegating and prioritizing. Trying to handle every task and responsibility on your own can lead to you becoming overwhelmed and stressed. Instead, try delegating tasks to skilled team members so they can take responsibility and share the workload. By focusing on high-impact activities and aligning priorities, you can create a more balanced and manageable workload for yourself.

Once you have people you can trust, try to take regular and complete breaks from work. I like to take an occasional walk to clear my head, listen to music, and read fiction to broaden my perspective (by nature I lean towards non-fiction, so I have to constantly remind myself of this).

Cultivate support networks

Cultivating support networks, both within and outside their organizations, can also benefit your mental health. Find ways to surround yourself with people who can uplift and inspire you. Building strong relationships and connections with peers, mentors and like-minded peers can help you navigate challenges, share experiences and find support during times of stress.


I see addressing mental health in the C-suite as a critical step toward creating a healthier and more productive business environment. High-level executives are under tremendous pressure and are prone to stress, burnout, and other mental health issues. I believe recognizing and proactively addressing these issues can do wonders for you and your business. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?