June 2, 2023

German biscuit heiress shares mental health struggles after quitting


Verena Bahlsen, heiress to the Bahlsen biscuit empire. — Twitter
Verena Bahlsen, heiress to the Bahlsen biscuit empire. — Twitter 

FRANKFURT: German heiress Verena Bahlsen has opened up about her mental health struggles after stepping down from her family´s Bahlsen biscuit company.

Bahlsen, 29, made headlines in Germany in 2019 when she had to apologise after claiming her company had treated forced labourers well during World War II.

Her surprise departure as “chief mission officer” was announced in a company statement last week, without giving any details.

But in an emotional LinkedIn post on Monday, Bahlsen opened up about the mental health struggles she had experienced at work.

“I have stood in a German wheat field with our CEO, having a panic attack. I have cried in many a meeting,” she wrote.

“I have been unkind at times, or impatient, or interrupted people when I should have been listening, or been cold and hard when I should have stayed soft.”

Bahlsen thanked her former co-workers who “taught me so much” and said she was proud of her contribution to three brand relaunches in two years.

But she admitted she often felt “embarrassed” when people saw her in her “moments of fear, or overwhelm, or insecurity”.

At the age of 25, Bahlsen caused controversy in Germany when she called herself a capitalist who “wants to make money and buy yachts with my dividends”.

When critics reminded her that her family´s 130-year-old company profited from forced labourers during Adolf Hitler´s Nazi regime, she hit back, saying “we paid forced labourers as much as Germans and treated them well”.

Her comments drew a furious outcry from politicians and historians alike, triggering an apology from Bahlsen who said she “deeply” regretted the comment and had more to learn “about the history of the company whose name I carry”.

Looking to the future, Bahlsen said on LinkedIn that she wanted to write, intern on a movie set and do some freelance brand-building work.

“So if anyone has a job for me please give me a shout,” she wrote.

“But maybe give me a few weeks first, to go surfing, sit on a beach, and be scandalously unproductive,” she added.

Senior figures in the public eye have spoken more candidly in recent years about the stress and pressures they face, as discussions about mental health become more commonplace in the workplace.

Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk 2017 admitted to experiencing “great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress.


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Ayan Khan

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