Canadian Underwriter

Is running your brokerage affecting your mental health?

June 28, 2019   by Adam Malik

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The stress of being an entrepreneur is taking its toll on the mental health of small business owners.

Whether it’s the anxiety related to cash flow issues, finding talent, or figuring how to make it all work at home and at the office, nearly two-thirds of respondents to a Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) survey said they feel depressed at least once per week.

Most Canadian brokerages are small businesses, which are an essential part of the Canadian economy. That makes an entrepreneur’s health and well being “a critical public health issue,” according to the study Going it Alone: The Mental Health and Well-Being of Entrepreneurs in Canada.

Cash flow concerns (67%) by far weighed most on the minds of entrepreneurs. Balancing responsibilities at both work and home was next at 39%, while finding the right talent ranked third at 36%.

About half of the small business people in the study reported feelings of inadequacy and having a depressed mood, both of which coincide with mental health concerns, the study reported.

As a result, 66% of those surveyed said it’s difficult to maintain a desirable work-life balance. Fifty-four percent said the stress of being an entrepreneur was negatively affecting their ability to concentrate at work. Professional relationships were also taking a hit, 23% of respondents said.

So how do business owners cope?

Not very well. Only 16% reported seeking professional help, whereas 40% preferred to talk to a friend. Taking a break and practising self-care is the strategy of choice for 45% of respondents.

It also comes down to money and stigma. Cost is a barrier to seeking help for more than one-third a third of entrepreneurs; and 36% said they would worry about their reputation or the organizational implications associated with seeking help.

The report doesn’t offer magic solutions to solving problems, but looks to at least get the conversation started and raise awareness that there is an issue.

“We want this report to start an open conversation and shift the popular view of entrepreneurs from ‘tireless innovator’ or ‘lone visionary’ to one that allows them to show their vulnerability and ask for help when needed,” says Fardous Hosseiny, the CMHA’s interim national CEO and national director of research and public policy. “There needs to be more discussion about entrepreneur mental health and more attention paid to it by entrepreneur networks and organizations.”

The CMHA also offers the following recommendations:

  • Develop flexible and relevant mental health support for entrepreneurs
  • Create tools to help entrepreneurs achieve better work-life balance
  • Strengthen research on entrepreneur mental health
  • Shift the popular view of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship
  • Include mental health in entrepreneurship education

“As a society, we help support, sustain and grow the health of their businesses—and it is time to do the same for their mental health,” said Michael Denham, president and CEO at Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), which is geared to entrepreneurs. The BDC supported the CMHA study.

“We want to make sure mental health is included in discussions about entrepreneurship in Canada. The CMHA study has enabled us to take the pulse of entrepreneurs’ well-being and now we are better positioned to take helpful action.”

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