Survey finds COVID-19 is impacting mental health of entrepreneurs

Women, minorities and business owners are suffering during the pandemic

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) released a report last week revealing that while nearly two-thirds of Canadian business owners (64 per cent) say they are adjusting to COVID-19, nearly one-third (29 per cent) say the situation is touch-and-go from day to day.

According to the report, two out of five business owners say they are feeling depressed at least once a week (39 per cent) and two-thirds feel tired or have low energy (64 per cent).

BDC says there are many concerns keeping entrepreneurs awake at night

According to the BDC, the pandemic is having an even more alarming impact on certain sub-groups, including women entrepreneurs, visible minorities and business owners, who have either not yet resumed or only partially resumed business activities following the initial COVID-19 lockdown.

Women and minorities

BDC says women are significantly more likely to feel depressed (51 per cent) and admit that mental health challenges interfered with their ability to work (40 per cent). Visible minorities are significantly more likely to say that mental health challenges interfered (48 per cent) and they would have liked support from a mental health professional (33 per cent).

Business owners who had not yet resumed business activities were significantly more likely to feel tired (87 per cent), depressed (75 per cent) and said that mental health challenges interfered with their ability to work (57 per cent).

“Last year, BDC made a commitment to raise awareness about the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs, in addition to the health of their business,” Annie Marsolais, Chief Marketing Officer and Mental Health Advocate at BDC, said in a statement.

Where to turn for help

“By examining this topic and collaborating with experts and partners, we can help break the stigma associated with mental health issues, ensure business owners feel more at ease discussing it, and know where to turn for help,” she said.

BDC says there are many concerns keeping entrepreneurs awake at night. But according to their report, the biggest preoccupations are being able to generate enough revenue to make a profit (43 per cent) and covering expenses (40 per cent).

To help provide support to entrepreneurs, BDC says it asked experts, including one from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal, to review the survey findings.

Prioritizing mental health

Dr. Joaquin Poundja, a psychologist at the Douglas Institute, believes entrepreneurs must brace themselves for longer-term disruptions due to COVID-19, and they must prioritize their mental health in order to lead their businesses through this new reality.

“The fact that two-thirds of respondents feel tired, low or have little energy is worrisome and should be addressed,” he said.

“On one hand, it is important to keep in mind that being more anxious at times or having mild ups and downs is a normal reaction during a pandemic, but it can be more problematic when we become self-critical or judgmental. Finding coping strategies and watching for warning signs of a bigger problem are important.”

Watch for warnings

Poundja also encourages business owners to watch for warning signs that could indicate more serious mental health issues.

These might include changes in normal behavioural patterns like eating or sleeping more or less than usual; increased alcohol or drug consumption; withdrawal from relationships and reduced sociability; difficulties in daily functioning at work, at home or in relationships; and rumination about how things could go wrong that start to affect one’s capacity to work.