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It’s hard not to meet someone who has not been touched by mental illness. Among family, friends and co-workers, virtually everyone can share a story of someone they know who suffers from anxiety, stress or depression. I can relate, as my own mother endured bouts of depression for most of her life. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 per cent of Canadians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. If you are an entrepreneur, you are 3.5 times as likely to experience mental illness and five times as likely to contemplate suicide according to a recent study by Blueteau DeVenney. The report identifies the relentless stress that entrepreneurs face as a leading contributor to mental illness. Entrepreneurs often self identify with the business which contributes to obsessive tendencies that result in making riskier or poor decisions. The expectations entrepreneurs set for the growth of the business are often unachievable, which damage the confidence of the individual. This further contributes to an unhealthy business model as entrepreneurs lose the passion to grow the business out of a desire to avoid the associated stress.

The spirit that drove entrepreneurs to start their business quickly gets lost when their time is focused in areas that cause the greatest stress and often align with areas the entrepreneur is least competent. Financial pressures, working excessive hours and withholding anxiety are often realized as individuals struggle with the stigma associated with mental illness in entrepreneurs. Time spent on professional development, delegating responsibilities and managing the entrepreneur’s time and focus offer the greatest opportunity for success.

Those surveyed for the study, further report exercise, speaking with a friend or family, meditation and sleep are the most effective tools they employ to maintain a healthy mindset.

Research on the effects of mental health on the wellbeing of entrepreneurs is fairly limited. The costs associated with mental illness range from resources assigned to manage its effects, loss of productivity in the workplace, to a general impact on the personal relationship and social lives of the individual, family and friends.

In recognition of the value that mental health and poverty factor into the economy, The Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce is in the process of putting forward a policy resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, asking for their support to lobby the federal government. The engagement of the federal government is aimed at gaining their acknowledgement of the link between poverty, mental illness and the economy, while requesting they divert greater resources to support business and local communities improve the wellbeing of individuals which will increase the economic potential of all citizens and entrepreneurs. The Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce interest in programs that support the mental health of entrepreneurs, and the community as a whole, uniquely coincides with the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association upcoming building campaign and its efforts to increase awareness of mental illness and their own supporting role in the community. Through awareness, open dialogue and acceptance, collectively we can change the narrative associated with mental illness. Andrew Lake is President of the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce. He is Project Manager with Will-Kare Paving and Contracting.