Founder of a business that offers both management expertise and mental health support to representatives and executives of venture companies.
It all started when Yoshifumi helped a friend suffering from depression
Yoshifumi’s first involvement with mental illness goes back to his university days. It all started when he helped a friend from university suffering from depression and panic attacks. At the time, Yoshifumi never thought he would end up suffering from depression himself a few years later.
He majored in physics for his undergraduate and graduate studies, then started working at an automobile manufacturer after graduation. He was involved in interior design and other development tasks. Then came a major turning point. Mr. O, one of his university friends from a few years ahead of him, was engaged in drug discovery research, and ended up developing a drug for mental illness. However, he was unable to commercialize it because he was busy with his work in the lab. If situations like this are always left unchanged, even the best technology would not reach those who are suffering. In his mind, Yoshifumi recalled his friend from university who suffered from depression.
“Ever since I was in university, I had a feeling that there would be something I could do, even though I was not a medical professional. So, when I heard about Mr. O’s situation, I wanted to support him in bringing his drug to the masses. It didn't take me long to decide to start my own business.”
Driven by his mission, Yoshifumi resigned from the company he was working for, and launched a health care venture company engaged in the field of mental illness together with Mr. O. This was back in 2015. He worked as the representative and put his business on a steady track. He was feeling a sense of fulfillment as he ran through his busy days…
“In the beginning, I was not even aware of my deteriorating mental condition, let alone depression,” he recalls. The trigger was interpersonal conflicts with the new members of his business. He spent many days struggling, and eventually could not fall asleep. He would keep pondering the problem, and the next thing he knew, it was already morning. Despite the situation, he convinced himself; “I can’t fall asleep because I’m having trouble at work.” He used to love eating, but he lost his appetite and his body weight plummeted by more than 20 kg.
“My alone time was hell. I could not stop thinking. I could not control my thoughts, which kept going round and round in circles, thinking about the same thing. Eventually, it started interfering with my daily life and my work.”
The first person to notice that something was off with Yoshifumi was his business partner, Mr. O. One day, Mr. O asked him anxiously in the middle of a call, “you are acting a little weird lately. The way you talk is very dark. Are you okay?” Hearing this, Yoshifumi began to sob, even though he was in public. Mr. O suggested over the phone that he should go see a mental health practitioner.
“I often visited psychiatrists for work, however, as a patient, I found myself resisting taking medications or seeing a doctor. But Mr. O encouraged me to go to the hospital. He said to me; ‘if it doesn’t work, you can go to another one, but first, go and just tell them about your situation.’ I feel those words really helped to save me.”
Upon seeing a psychiatrist, he found out that he was depressed due to an adjustment disorder. His condition did not improve, and he was eventually diagnosed with depression. He stepped down from his position as representative, without fulfilling his ambition, to focus on his recovery. At the same time, he quit his day job, which he loved very much.
The symptoms were most severe right after the start of treatment. He would suddenly feel sad for no reason. He could not stop the tears from running down his cheeks. He would have flashbacks to troubles he had in the past. He had a hard time falling asleep. He would wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares. He could not get up from his bed in the morning. Eventually, he was struck by suicidal thoughts, hoping to die or disappear. He went through such days faintly thinking, “I wish this day would end soon.”
Yoshifumi says that when he was alone, he would get lost in his thoughts, but talking to others made him feel better. Toward the latter part of his treatment, he met with the few people he was really close with, and gradually regained his energy. “When I stepped down as representative, I thought all my business associates were gone. But many of them were eagerly awaiting my return and reached out. I felt happy that I was not alone.”
Little by little, he began to start working again as part of his rehabilitation. Meanwhile, he started participating in vocational rehabilitation as recommended by his doctor. Through this treatment program for social reintegration, he learned about mental health and mental skills, and had discussions and interactions with others who were absent from their work just like him. Yoshifumi said this was how he was able to connect with people on two different levels, job assistance and vocational rehabilitation, and he got better and better.
His administrative skills and memory were also greatly reduced, and he was often puzzled by the gap between who he once was and who he is now. What bothered him the most was the decline in vocabulary and language skills. There is a frustration of not being able to come up immediately with the best words to convey your thoughts to someone. However, in this situation, he hopes.
"I think there is still a tendency for people to get defensive about the topic of mental illness. I want to eliminate that stigma." Yoshifumi Kobayashi
Now, treatment is almost unnecessary, and the visits to the hospital have become fewer and fewer. He gradually resumed work as the symptoms lessened. Drawing on his own experience of fighting depression, he established a business that provides both management and mental health support to representatives and executives of venture companies who are suffering from mental illness. Through his business, he wishes to help people who suffer from the same disorders as himself. Yoshifumi has started again on a path that was once interrupted.
“I think there is still a tendency for people to get defensive about the topic of mental illness. I want to eliminate that stigma. You should be able to go to a mental health clinic when you feel you need to without hesitation, just like when you catch a cold and visit a doctor. I want to create a world where people around someone living with brain disease are not afraid to say; ‘take care!’ That is my dream.”
Trigger warning: This video contains a section about suicidal thoughts (2:19-2:30). If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or call the suicide prevention hotline in your country.