How to mentor someone with mental health challenges

At Rise we want every mentoring and coaching experience to have mutual respect and appreciation. We’ve developed an 8-point framework that outlines strategies and tactics mentors and coaches working with entrepreneurs with a history of mental health and addiction challenges can use to achieve this goal.

Take a moment before you start your volunteer experience to read them over and keep them present during your time with the entrepreneur.

  1. Acknowledge and respect the expertise and knowledge that clients have gained through their own history and business experience, or in the informal economy. Recognize that they may not consider themselves to be a novice in the business world.
  2. Beware of “The MBA Factor”: help clients become successful within their own definition of success, and in a way that respects their own daily rhythms and routines. Value different types of business intelligence and ways of “doing business.”
  3. Recognize that clients are used to operating within an informal gratitude economy that is based on trust, respect, and reciprocity. Maintain the close, respectful, interpersonal relationships on which such an economy is built, and avoid the impersonality and suspicion that clients see in the formal economy, which often causes them to avoid participating in it.
  4. Create mutual respect and reciprocity by finding ways for clients to share their expertise and experience and give advice to others – perhaps by becoming mentors as well as being appointed a mentor of their own.
  5. Keep an awareness of stigma and information management at the forefront of all of your decisions about the program. Stay aware of the fact that affiliation with Rise may be a potentially discrediting experience, and that this is a source of great fear and anxiety for many clients and potential clients, especially those who have been successful and are – or may soon be – in the public eye.
  6. Treat clients as people first, entrepreneurs second, and let their illness remain in the background. Do not make it their master status and do not treat them as a “case.”
  7. Be careful about delaying recognition of positive client performance to a later date, and about demands placed on their time. Remember that although they appreciate awards and recognition, clients are running a business and they may already have challenges related to rhythms, structure, and time. Their world is not the traditional business world, and they may need to focus more heavily on the present than the future.
  8. Acknowledge success – as the client defines it – without reference to their illness. Celebrate achievement for its own sake, not “In spite of…” Do not hold clients up publicly as a representative example of an entire category of people. Recognize them as individuals, and follow their lead in sharing information about their illness.



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