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Why small business owners should talk about mental health

By FSB National Chairman, Mike Cherry

Running your own business can be richly rewarding. When I talk to people who have made the brave step, they give me a number of reasons for doing it – the ability to realise a dream, employ people in their local community, achieve a better work/life balance, or simply be their own boss. 

Despite all the positives, the reality is that it does bring challenges that can make it harder to look after your mental health or cope with poor mental health – and when poor mental health affects you, or your staff, it can be difficult to know where to turn.
I know, all too well, the impact this can have.

My own father suffered from depression for many years, something which impacted his ability to run and manage the family business. In fact, it was partly due to this that I decided to leave school when I was only sixteen in order to help run the business. Although, I have no regrets about that decision - and have enjoyed a very rewarding career running my family business - it has made me very conscious of the impact poor mental health can have on small business owners, as well as employees.

Mental health is a huge challenge for society. Government, business owners, and each of us as individuals can work together to help destigmatise mental health and create an open environment where we can all talk about, and take care of, each other’s mental health.

An estimated 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem, something no employer – most of whom rightly take great pride in their role employing people – should want.

Despite this, many employees are still reluctant to talk about mental health at work. I believe that we, as business owners, must play a critical role in talking about mental health in the workplace and lead the way in both destigmatising mental health in the workplace and acting to help our people when they are struggling.

By both talking about it and addressing it, we can help promote an open environment where people feel comfortable talking about the issues that are affecting them, work out what positive changes we can make in  the workplace, and make some progress to help each other.

Our campaign aims to provide a better understanding of mental health and how it can affect you and your employees. It aims to provide you with some simple ideas and actions that you can take to help destigmatise mental health and address it in your workplace.

Alongside this practical advice, you will find a number of stories from small business owners talking about their own experiences with poor mental health and how they have tried to promote good mental health in their businesses. You will also find great links to free resources from organisations including Heads Together, Mind and Mental Health First Aid.

It is my hope that this information will empower you to learn more about mental health, your role in challenging stigmas, and that it’s OK to talk about mental health in your business.