The health and wellbeing of small business owners is a critically important public health issue. It is especially important when it comes to mental health. After all, small businesses account for the employment of more than 54 million people in the U.S.
A new report by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reveals 62% of business owners feel depressed at least once a week. Granted the study was conducted in Canada, but studies carried out there are usually applied in the U.S. and vice versa.
But when it comes to the issue of depression, the numbers are probably higher in the U.S. This according to Brian Fielkow, CEO of Jetco Delivery and Dr. Andrea Goeglein, a workplace and career psychologist.
In an emailed release, Fielkow says, “I’m not shocked by this at all. Based on what I see with my clients, I expect that this rate is even higher in the United States. Business owners are so busy taking care of their employees that they forget to take care of themselves. They also hide their depressed feelings to keep up company morale.”
The Goal of the Study
Titled, “Going it Alone: the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs in Canada,” the study looks at the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs. According to the CMHA, the goal of the study is to better appreciate the unique pressures business owners face. At the same time, try to find ways to improve the mental health experiences of entrepreneurs.
The study looks to understand:
- What mental health issues entrepreneurs report.
- The impact of mental health concerns on business objectives and entrepreneurs’ personal lives.
- What strategies and/or support entrepreneurs use to manage these issues.
- What barriers they face in accessing services and support, including lack of access and limited awareness of support.
- The cost of mental health services.
- Stigma-related concerns, such as concern for reputation and discomfort discussing the issue.
The report comes from a survey of close to 500 entrepreneurs.
The study says generally entrepreneurs are likely to experience mental health issues frequently. On top of the 62% who say they feel depressed at least once a week, another 46% also experience low mood or feel mentally fatigued. And these mental issues interfere with their ability to work for 46% of the respondents.
Why Business Owners Feel Depressed
In the past 12 months, 28% said they experienced or were diagnosed with a mental health condition. The most common of these conditions are mood and anxiety disorders. This was 8% higher than the general population.
Other mental health-related issues include feelings of uncertainty and/or inadequacy (51%), depressed mood (50%), and mood swings (39%). But even with so many conditions, 79% say they are happy with their state of mind at least once a week. And only 20% feel the need to get mental health support and services.
Do Depressed Business Owners Seek Help?
When it comes to getting help, a number of barriers prevent entrepreneurs from actually seeking mental health support.
The number one reason (36%) is the stigma attached to mental health. People are concerned about the organizational and reputation implications of seeking help and/or taking time off work. The good news is, the report says 46% are reporting their organization is working to end mental health stigma.
Additional barriers entrepreneurs face includes the cost of mental health (34%) and lack of access to support (22%).
Who is More Likely to Experience Mental Health Issues?
In the report, female entrepreneurs say they experience some issues with far greater frequency than their male counterparts. This includes feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy, depressed mood, and feeling overwhelmed.
Entrepreneurs with businesses which are going through early growth stage also report higher incidents of mental conditions. This is perfectly understandable because of the many stresses associated with growing a business. Especially a small business without the right funding.
For most small businesses addressing the issue of mental health is going to be way beyond their comfort zone. But it is important to create a safe environment for employees to report their condition without any repercussions.
Some of the recommendations in the report are to:
- Develop flexible and relevant mental health support for entrepreneurs.
- Create tools to help entrepreneurs achieve better work-life balance.
- Include mental health in entrepreneurship education.
- Strengthen research on entrepreneur mental health.
- Shift the popular view of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.
In conclusion, the report says, “We need a more nuanced narrative that allows entrepreneurs to show their vulnerability and ask for help when they need it.”
Read the full report here (PDF)