Mental health of Canadian entrepreneurs impacted by pandemic: survey

Dec 20 2020, 5:31 pm

A recent Canada-wide survey shows the mental health of Canadian entrepreneurs and business owners has been gravely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) surveyed the state of 500 small Canadian business owners’ mental health in late August. 

The report revealed that nearly two-thirds of all surveyed reported feeling tired, low, or had little energy at least once a week. While 64% of entrepreneurs stated that either all is well or they had things under control, two in five business owners of the sample reported feeling depressed at least once a week.

Sub-groups, including business owners that have yet to resume operations, visible minorities, or women entrepreneurs, were more likely to express mental health challenges since restrictions were implemented.

Women and those who had partially or not resumed their operations were significantly less optimistic than their peers but were also more likely to report having effective coping methods.

“Stress can be good in the short-term, but a high level of stress over a long period of time could lead to more serious mental health problems,” said Professor Étienne St-Jean, Canada Research Chair on Entrepreneurial Career at the Université du Québec at Trois- Rivières. 

Specifically, worries surrounding the economic recession and generating cash flow were the most common two sources of stress. The survey found that 40% and 48% of women and visible minorities, respectively, felt that mental health challenges interfered with their ability to work. 

To best support entrepreneurs, the BDC brought together an advisory committee of Canadian professionals to review the survey findings.

Dr. Poundja, a psychologist at the Douglas Institute, was concerned that these high numbers in precursors, such as exhaustion, to more serious mental health afflictions might result in long-term disruptions. 

“The fact that two-thirds of respondents feel tired, low or have little energy is worrisome and should be addressed,” Dr. Poundja, who believes that entrepreneurs must prioritize their mental health in order to lead their businesses through this new reality. 

“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.” 

These warning signs, as identified by Poundja, may include changes in normal behavioural patterns; difficulties in daily functioning at work, home, or in relationships; increased alcohol or drug consumption; withdrawal from relationships and reduced sociability; and/or rumination about potential challenges that undermine work capacity or mentality.

The panel of experts identified five tips to combat high stress for entrepreneurs in COVID-19: reaching out to different contacts for help, managing expectations, delegating as appropriate, and monitoring signs that lead to further burnout.

Sherry SunSherry Sun

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