We speak to serial-entrepreneur, investor, thinker and educator Vikas Shah and find out why he feels so passionately about mental health

Vikas Shah started his first business aged 14. Now, 24 years later he is an accomplished public speaker. He has addressed many of the worlds most influential entrepreneurship events including the largest TEDX event in Europe - TEDX Manchester.

An advocate for many causes, Vikas has spoken publicly on issues ranging from mental health to inequality.

He has been open about his own personal struggle with depression over a ten-year period and turned to poetry as “a form of therapy and catharsis.” He published his book of poetry last year, ‘3650.’

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Vikas said men need to be encouraged more to look after their mental health.

“For men, mental health is a particular challenge. 

“Our notion of masculinity itself is broken and men rarely- culturally or socially- get the space to explore, question or discuss their emotional well-being. 

“Instead, we have this awful phrase in our culture, ‘Man Up!’

“It’s actually strange to me that we historically haven’t encouraged people to look after their mental health as much as their physical health. 

If we gave the same attention to mental health as we did to smoking prevention, cancer prevention and obesity prevention, surely it would be transformational for our society. 

“Perhaps equally important is the fact that we often wait too long before seeking help. 

“We have to make sure that if people are going through mental health challenges, that we encourage them to get the medical support they need, which starts with the GP. Still, today, too much scepticism seems to exist around this.”

An Honorary Professor of Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Manchester Alliance Business School, Vikas has spent many years of his life mentoring hundreds of young entrepreneurs and businesses and playing a key role in the development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the city.

As well as acknowledging ones own mental health, Vikas said as a business owner one is fully responsible for the well-being of their business community.

“Businesses often spend time and attention on physical and social health, but it’s rare that businesses encourage mental-health positive strategies for their workforce.

“Business leaders must also take a lot of time and attention to look after their mental health, manage stress and build resilience. Unless you are a healthy leader, you will not have a healthy company.”

Vikas’ collections of poems came about 'by accident' saying it was 'a way to make sense of what was going on in my life'.

Asian Image:

Asian Image:

Vikas’ collections of poems came about 'by accident' saying it was 'a way to make sense of what was going on in my life'.

The intimate poems cover a range of life events and emotions, inner reflection and healing over ten years.

“I never intended to write a book, it happened almost by happy accident. It was a form of therapy and catharsis through the entire journey of anxiety and depression.

"I’m talking now because I feel able to and I think we need to have a conversation about mental health. There shouldn’t be a stigma around it.

“My advice to other people is to talk about it. Don’t suffer in silence. There’s no reason to feel like you’re on your own.”