By sharing their personal stories about mental health challenges, entrepreneurs can support each other
It’s not easy being an entrepreneur.
When it comes to success or failure, the buck often stops with the person at the helm of a business. That’s a lot of pressure. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to feel alone and overwhelmed—and not know where to turn for help.
This is why, in 2018, we undertook the first-ever study on Canadian entrepreneurs’ mental health, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Since then, we’ve published annual survey results on the state of entrepreneurs’ mental health—to get a better understanding of the situation and raise awareness on the issue.
Only one-third of entrepreneurs seek out support
A recent BDC survey revealed that 45% of entrepreneurs in Canada experienced mental health challenges in 2023, compared to 38% in 2022. The survey also showed a significant increase in the proportion of entrepreneurs who wanted to seek support from a mental health professional. Yet only about one-third of entrepreneurs who are experiencing mental health challenges reach out for professional support.
The survey uncovered that entrepreneurs face barriers to getting the help they need, with cost being the biggest one. Other obstacles include uncertainty about services, access, discomfort discussing the issue, concerns about reputation, negative peer perceptions and discrimination.
Many successful entrepreneurs are masking hidden struggles
Business owners are too often seen as superhuman, but they are far from immune to experiencing mental health challenges. As Canada’s bank for entrepreneurs, we feel strongly that we have a role to play in supporting them on all fronts. While mental health may not seem like a typical topic for a bank, we believe entrepreneurs’ well-being should be part of the conversation as it is crucial to creating a sustainable and healthy business ecosystem.
That’s why we’ve decided to collaborate with Unsinkable, a national mental health charity founded by four- time Olympian and entrepreneur, Silken Laumann, for a series of stories called “Unsinkable Entrepreneurs.”
Through this initiative, Unsinkable’s online platform will showcase successful Canadian entrepreneurs who have struggled with their mental health and found the help they needed. They each tell their own stories about the positive impact that reaching out for help has had on themselves and their businesses. Often, that included seeking professional support to help navigate mental health challenges and move toward mental well-being.
The first storyteller is Rhiannon Rosalind, Founder of Conscious Economics and former owner and CEO of The Economic Club of Canada. Her story highlights the truth that many successful entrepreneurs are masking hidden struggles—in her case, alcoholism and trauma.
“I had, by society’s definition, made it,” she recalls in her story. “I was a cycle breaker in my family, or so I thought.”
“The truth was not something I wanted to see at the time, so I kept ignoring the warning signs from my body as my stress and drinking increased. Pushing through exhaustion, hiding the pattern of financial chaos that I was continually trapped in, refusing to ask for help, and trying to fit in at all costs. This was how I survived.”
Rhiannon’s story is tragically common among Canadian entrepreneurs: Many who are struggling don’t know how to get support—or they face financial or other barriers to accessing it. By sharing stories like Rhiannon’s, we hope to break down stigma around mental health and encourage entrepreneurs to reach out for support when they need it.
Mental health is critical to everyone’s personal and business success
We are all learning about the far-reaching effects mental health has on individuals, organizations and communities. Here at BDC, our mandate is to help entrepreneurs to grow, scale and succeed. We are committed to supporting sustainable businesses that will have a long-term impact on people, communities and our Canadian economy.
BDC’s support of Unsinkable Entrepreneurs aims at continuing to raise awareness around the mental health of Canada’s entrepreneurs.
To learn more and to view a curated list of mental health resources and support for entrepreneurs, visit www.bdc.ca/wellbeing.
Click here to discover Rhiannon’s full story.