May is Mental Health Month! To say that you don't have mental health is similar to saying you don't have physical health. You have both. What is to be understood is that there is a spectrum along a continuum of mental illness and mental wellness. This is where you should be concerned: whether you are mentally ill or mentally well.

We hate to speak about mental illness because of our perceptions and bias about mental illness. But I submit to you that everyone at some point in their life deals with mental illness personally, whether it's due to anxiety, depression, overeating, undereating and so forth, brought on by a job, grieving, divorce, moving, stress, or other occurrences that happen in your life.

In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four adults (approximately 61.5 million Americans) experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17 (about 13.6 million) live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder. This doesn't mean that such person is institutionalized somewhere; rather, some of these people are highly functional. These are often the people who are bringing new ideas to the market and making a huge splash on many fronts. But these are often the people who do not seek help because of the stigma associated with mental health, not to even mention mental illness.

That simply has to change. We have to change the conversation from mental illness to mental wellness, understanding that some people are in fact ill, while a host of other people are mentally well living with a diagnosis. It's not until then that we'll be able to reap the benefits that certain mental health challenges bring. Before you try to hide and go into denial about your own mental health challenge, just think about how some disorders can catapult your career.

According to Nassir Ghaemi, author of  A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness, mentally normal leaders, who often have enormous success in normal times, often do not have the personal resources to cope with crisis change. But those who have struggled with mental illness--not outright psychosis or delusions, but the common mental illnesses of bipolarism or depression--have often developed just the traits that crisis leaders need and demonstrate, such as realism, resilience, creativity and empathy. And let's face it: owning and operating a small business presents ongoing crises. According to McLeans, the connection between mania--the up side of bipolar disease--and creativity is well-known; resilience also accompanies mania. Studies show depressed people consistently see the world around them more realistically than mentally healthy people, who are biased toward optimism. Depression makes leaders more realistic and empathetic, and mania makes them more creative and realistic.

There are numerous disorders that can take a small business to another level. The trick is getting the right person in the right seat in your organization and leveraging mental wellness. According to Reader's Digest, these are just a few disorders with benefits:

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER

You're more likely to be: hardworking and diligent. People with OCD tend to excel at jobs with strict rules or guidelines that require a high level of conscientiousness.

ANXIETY

You're more likely to be: compassionate. Highly anxious people are known for their sensitivity and attentiveness to others. They also tend to be hypervigilant, so they make good surgeons, doctors, dentists, and bankers.

MILD BIPOLAR DISORDER

You're more likely to be: creative. Many people prone to mood swings are writers, artists, musicians, and performers. Aside from creativity, when they are manic they can and often do work around the clock.

ASPERGER SYNDROME

You're more likely to be: a problem solver. Although people with this condition are socially awkward, their intensity of focus steers them toward technology, science, and engineering.

DEPRESSION

You're more likely to be: insightful. Depressives tend to be more in touch with the deeper truths about themselves, life, and the human experience, experts say.

 

Published on: May 6, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.