Nearly half of Canadian entrepreneurs say mental health issues interfere with their work, study finds
Crying almost every day was a clue to entrepreneur Jenny Jay that something was wrong.
November and December 2018 were two of the most successful months in terms of revenue for his business, the Double Jay Collective, a photography and videography agency in the Greater Toronto Area. But those months were two of the worst for his mental health.
“Doing work, something I normally like to do, was really hard,” she said.
According to a new study by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), nearly half of Canadian entrepreneurs say mental health issues affect their ability to work. A third of business owners surveyed said they felt depressed at least once a week.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy,” said Fardous Hosseiny, CMHA’s President and CEO and National Director of Research and Public Policy. “Their health and well-being are a crucial public health issue. Job creation.”
For the report, Going It Alone: The Mental Health and Well-Being of Canadian Entrepreneurs, researchers surveyed 476 Canadian entrepreneurs and conducted one-on-one interviews with 20 of them. He came out on Tuesday.
Nearly 80% of respondents said they were happy with their mental health at least once a week, but Hosseiny thinks it’s telling that problems arose when researchers asked specific questions about stress and mood. burnout. “They think they’re fine, but when we get to a deeper dive, we find they’re really struggling.”
There were 1.15 million small businesses in Canada in December 2017, according to Statistics Canada.
Although entrepreneurship is encouraged by start-up centers and post-secondary programs, discussions of mental health are generally absent, the report notes.
It’s one of the first studies to look at Canadian entrepreneurs and their mental health on a national scale, said Hosseiny and Michael Denham, president and CEO of the Business Development Bank of Canada, a state-owned bank that sponsored the study.
“The study confirmed what we knew with some rigor,” Mr Denham said. “There are barriers around the cost of diagnosis and treatment. There is the stigma.
Entrepreneurs face unique stressors, the study notes, the most important of which is revenue uncertainty.
Christina Tolkamp experienced this when she left a consulting job to found her own company, Vancouver-based CareCrew Technologies Corp., and develop the Caren app, designed to help families coordinate their care with their aging relatives.
“Even when I’ve raised funds, when things go over budget, it’s easier to take from your own salary,” she said.
Ms Tolkamp knew starting a business would require a lifestyle change, but struggling to earn rent was difficult for her.
“You feel so drained,” she said. “Because your personal finances are at stake, your business is at stake. You have investors’ money at stake, you have your staff, and you have other family responsibilities.
In April 2018, she began seeing a clinical counsellor. “She asked me what I did for fun, and I said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t have time for fun,'” Ms Tolkamp said.
She had student health coverage at the time because she was studying for a master’s degree at the University of British Columbia. But entrepreneurs rarely have benefits to cover visits from a counselor or psychologist; the ACSM study noted that entrepreneurs face financial barriers to accessing these services.
Clinical counselors cost an average of $120 per session, according to the British Columbia Association of Clinical Counselors, and the Ontario Psychological Association recommends practitioners charge $225 per hour.
Some government agencies offer free services, but wait times are usually long, Hosseiny said, and the patient’s mental illness must be serious enough to be referred to them.
“We don’t wait for people to have stage 4 cancer to intervene. But we kind of do it for mental health,” he said.
Even if entrepreneurs have access to sick leave, they are less likely to take it; the report noted a culture of putting business needs before family and personal care.
“These 12-16 hour workdays are really glamorous,” said Ms Jay, who recalled a four-month stretch last winter when she took just one full day off leave.
According to the study, the effects on mental health were even more pronounced among female entrepreneurs and among those whose businesses were in the early stages of growth.
Six months after finding herself in tears too often, Ms Jay is doing better by making time to be offline and setting more realistic deadlines.
“If you don’t set those boundaries and make sure you’re healthy and whole, how are you going to be able to show up as 100%?” she said. “You can not.”
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