Breaking the taboo: let’s talk about mental health & business

Let's take time out to talk about the issue of mental health and running a business.

Let’s take time out to talk about the issue of mental health and running a business.

It’s time to talk about mental health in business. Mental health issues affect people from all walks of life. In fact, mental health charity Mind say that 1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues each year. So, why is there still stigma surrounding the issue?

Employers have a duty of care towards their emloyees, but what happens when your the business owner?

Employment law in the UK states that an employer has a duty of care towards their staff when it comes to providing health, safety and welfare for all their employees (Health and Safety at Work Act 1984), and this includes their mental health and welfare.

What happens when you’re a sole trader or a small business owner and you run in to difficulties? Well, unfortunately the buck stops with you, because you’re the one responsible for seeing to your own mental health and welfare.

Networking: not just for generating sales

Now, we all know that networking is great for your business. We’re told time and time again to get out there and generate leads – and sales. However, we at the Women’s Business Club also recognise that the group plays a crucial role in providing less tangible benefits that are of equal importance. Chief amongst these is support! Whether it’s a business or personal matter, the Women’s Business Club believes in offering this support, because we want to see our members succeed.

1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness each year

Yes, there’s still an aura of stigma and ignorance surrounding mental illness, but there really needn’t be. Next time you’re at an event, it’s statistically likely that around 1 in 4 of those people around you are currently dealing with a mental illness of some kind!

In fact, a member of the Women’s Business Club recently spoke out about her 18 month battle with depression. Should she have been so candid? Well, it sparked a discussion where other members came forth and offered their support. This, in turn, led to further discussion between members about their own struggles with depression, anxiety, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Bipolar Disorder and more.

Are people scared of ‘catching mad’?

So, given the fact that so many people have dealt with mental health issues at one time or another, I started pondering the reasons why the stigma behind mental illness still endures.

  • First of all I wondered whether people may be subconsciously afraid of ‘catching mad’.
  • Then there’s the way that mentally ill people are sensationalised in the media and portrayed in television and film. After all, it’s all about entertainment and giving people a gripping story isn’t it?
  • Then there’s just plain ignorance. If you’ve never experienced any mental health difficulties or don’t know anyone who has (which is statistically unlikely), why should you have any knowledge of it?
  • From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, is it a good idea to do business with someone you know suffers from a mental illness? Can you rely on them?

Why does the stigma endure? Let’s talk about it!

Naturally, we want to do business with people who we can relate to easily, form good relationships with and trust. Nevertheless, people aren’t machines! We never know what physical health issues may be hiding around the corner, or predict earth shattering major life events that can and do come out of the blue. Anyone could potentially develop a mental health problem for all sorts of reasons.

Supporting each other

In fact, as business owners, we have to be particularly kind to ourselves as it’s a stressful lifestyle – however rewarding it may be. People burn out, break down and crack under pressure – even CEOs of large organisations! So, it makes perfect sense to be candid when it comes to talking about your mental health issues as a business owner! We need to stick together and support other business owners.

Opening up can sound scarey, but it could boost your productivity in the long term

Fortunately, we at the Women’s Business club are an inclusive and supportive group. We don’t judge people for being depressed or anxious – we all have issues of some kind that could potentially affect our business. Perhaps women are more likely to open up about this, rather than admit to a perceived weakness?

In fact, recent statistics were released on suicide rates and men over 40 are now the highest risk group. So, why is this relevant to this post? Well, there’s a number of reasons, but they are just less likely to talk about the problems they’re facing. After all, we’ve been conditioned to see women as more open and communicative when it comes to discussing emotional matters with each other.

You’d be surprised by how many people have overcome these obstacles

So, it’s absolutely essential for people to be able to open up and talk about mental health issues – it saves lives. It’s not something to be frightened of, and you’d be surprised by the number of strong and competent individuals who’ll admit to having been through the ringer themselves!

Business owners have a lot to juggle!

In many ways, it’s especially important for women in business to be able to talk to other when they’re feeling shaky. In spite of the feminists of the 1960s, we’re still more likely to take on the lion’s share of responsibilities when it comes to caring for children, family members and elderly relatives – and that’s before we even consider our businesses and caring for ourselves.

Next week we talk about staying resilient

In the next post, we’ll be talking more about mental health and the concept of ‘resilience’. This has become a bit of a business buzz-word since the financial crash. However, smaller business owners and sole traders need to consider other aspects of resilience. There’s no business without you! So, we’ll look at real people’s experiences with mental health issues, how they coped with huge upheavals in their lives and their strategies for staying sane.

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