Owning and operating a business can be a stressful undertaking even in the best of times. The stress and pressure of interviewing, personnel management, and day-to-day operations can be immense. Because of these issues and other factors, there is a higher occurrence of mental health issues and substance use disorder among business owners when compared to the general population. With the uncertainty and disruption the last few years have seen, especially due to COVID, this is more the case now than ever before. Here, we hope to inform, support, and provide guidance to any business owner who may be struggling with co-occurring mental health issues and substance use disorders.
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Business owners tend to experience co-occurring conditions such as mental health challenges and substance use disorders at much higher rates than the general population.
There are several effective options for improving mental healthcare and wellness in the workplace including Employee Assistance Programs.
The financial stresses of business owners have been amplified due to COVID, but thankfully there are many options for financial aid and assistance.
Mental Health Conditions Among Business Owners
There is a strong tendency for entrepreneurs and business owners to experience mental health issues at higher rates, sometimes significantly higher, than the general population. While the reasons are not fully understood, the stress of owning and managing a business most likely plays a significant role. There has also been much recent research indicating that the personality traits of people who tend to start businesses may predispose them to mental illness in the first place. While there does not seem to be one single cause for this phenomenon, the end result is that business owners are at increased risk for mental health struggles.
One study from 2018 found that business owners and entrepreneurs are not only more likely to suffer from a mental illness, but they are also significantly more likely to suffer from multiple co-occurring mental health conditions. The most common, but by no means the only, mental health conditions among entrepreneurs include depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and substance use disorder. This study found that of the entrepreneurs included, 72% experienced at least one mental health disorder.
Substance Abuse Among Business Owners
While substance abuse has been common among business owners for a long time, this has only recently begun to be discussed publicly. Many prominent business leaders have opened up about their own struggles with substance use disorders and addiction and there have been several high-profile articles in well-renowned business magazines including Forbes, Business Insider, Inc, and more.
For a more numbers-oriented approach, let’s take a look at a SAMHSA report that was released in 2015. This report examined the rates of illicit drug use and addiction in different industries including management. In this report, management is defined as “Management of companies and enterprises, administration, support, waste management, and remediation services.”
Another issue of concern is the increasing rates of substance abuse issues, especially among business owners, during times of economic hardship. This next graphic displays the rates of illicit drug use over two periods of time; 4 years before the financial crisis of 2008, and 4 years after. The difference in illicit drug use rates among entrepreneurs is significant, as there is an almost 15% increase across this time.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Conditions In Entrepreneurs
There is a well-established connection between mental health issues and substance use disorders. While they are distinct and independent conditions, they commonly occur alongside one another. Co-occurring issues may amplify or worsen each other, leading to a negative feedback loop, where someone seeks relief from mental health symptoms by using drugs or alcohol, subsequently worsening the mental health condition.
There is also a strong connection between certain mental health conditions and substance use disorder. In particular, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are strongly correlated with substance use disorders, and these conditions are some of the most common mental health conditions that emerge in entrepreneurs.
While suffering from co-occurring mental health issues can complicate someone’s chances of healing, by no means does it make it impossible. Help is needed if someone hopes to recover from these conditions, but someone must first reach out and ask for help. There is strong evidence that receiving integrated care for both conditions at the same time can be extremely effective at treating co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues. Experiencing mental health struggles is nothing to be ashamed of, and help is available if someone is able to open up and ask.
What Can I Do As A Business Owner To Improve Mental Health In The Workplace?
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can be problematic for employees as well as employers. As an employer, there are things that can be done to improve the attitude toward mental health in the workplace. Aside from improving the atmosphere and attitudes of employees, doing what you can to encourage the positive mental healthcare practices of employees can have several concrete benefits.
Absenteeism and presenteeism can both lead to significant losses for a business. Frequently calling out of work is not uncommon for someone who is suffering from, for example, untreated depression or an anxiety disorder. Presenteeism is when someone comes to work, but is unable to commit their full attention and energy toward a job due to physical or mental health issues. This not only reduces productivity but can also increase the healthcare costs of these employees, sometimes substantially. One study found that employees who suffer from depression were 70% greater healthcare costs than non-depressed employees, and when combined with high-stress their healthcare expenses increased to 147% of non-depressed employees. This is a significant expense that can be reduced by promoting mental healthcare practices and treatment in the workplace.
Proactive steps toward promoting health and wellness in the workplace can not only earn the goodwill of employees but can also increase productivity while reducing healthcare costs. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be extremely helpful in allowing an employer to promote health and wellness in the workplace while also keeping costs at a minimum. The cost of an EAP can vary by state and company size. For example, a company with less than 25 employees may expect to pay about $50 per employee, per year for an EAP. These costs decrease along with the size of the company, and with companies that employ 5,00 or more people, it may be as little as $20 per employee per year.
A 1990 report by the US Department of Labor found that for every dollar an employer invests in an EAP, they save between $5 to $16 dollars. A good way to get a rough idea of the savings an EAP can produce is to use this EAP ROI Calculator. This tool provides a rough estimate and by no means should this be taken as fact, although it can be a quick and easy way to examine the potential costs saved by providing cheap and easily accessible mental health services to your employees.
Mental Health Resources for Business Owners
Professional treatment is the most effective way to recover from mental health and substance abuse issues. In addition to professional help, we have compiled a guide of helpful resources that are geared towards business owners as well as the specific conditions that are most common among entrepreneurs. That being said, there are many more mental health conditions that are not addressed here. If you are struggling and need help, reach out to a mental healthcare professional, a family member, or a friend and let them know what’s going on.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): A nationwide non-profit organization, NAMI aims to promote increased awareness, compassion, and visibility for mental health conditions of all kinds.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 A service that is funded by SAMHSA, the Lifeline provides help 24/7/365 to anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741-741 anytime 24/7 to be connected with a crisis counselor and get help.
- SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator: A government-funded tool, this allows anyone to find a free or low-cost behavioral health treatment center near them for any kind of mental illness or substance abuse issue.
- FindTreatment.gov: Another government-funded treatment locator that is geared toward helping people find free or low-cost substance abuse treatment near them.
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America: An international non-profit, their website provides community resources for people struggling with anxiety, depression, and other types of mental health challenges.
- International Bipolar Foundation: This website provides helpful information on how to obtain financial aid if you have bipolar disorder. This can be in the form of Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income. This can not only help someone afford treatment but can also reduce some of the financial stresses associated with running a business.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: An advocacy and support organization, they provide helpful resources as well as a support group locator to find local groups, either in-person or online to find support and connections with others who also struggle with depression and bipolar disorder.
Financial Resources For Business Owners
The stress of running a business can lead to worsening mental health and substance abuse issues, and getting help in times of crisis can go a long way toward reducing the negative impact this has on someone’s life and overall health. During COVID, many businesses were hit extremely hard, especially foodservice, healthcare, educators, and many more. While everyone has struggled throughout COVID, operating a business in any of these industries may have been especially difficult. Thankfully, there are multiple resources available to help businesses stay afloat during and after the COVID pandemic.
Some extremely helpful business or financial aid resources include:
- BarMagic: A hospitality industry site that is aimed at providing a clear picture that the COVID pandemic has had on restaurants, and what the economic recovery and reopening landscape looks like right now across the country.
- The Giving Kitchen: An organization dedicated to helping foodservice workers, this site provides a wealth of resources that can help hospitality industry workers who may be struggling right now.
- Candid: A non-profit organization, their resources page has dozens of resources for finding financial aid including aid for individuals, non-profits, small businesses, and much more.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: A government agency, their site provides information, documentation, and ways to apply for a variety of financial assistance programs that were included or expanded upon in the economic stimulus bill.
- Chamber of Commerce Directory: This is a comprehensive directory of all local Chambers of Commerce throughout the United States. While each Chamber provides unique programs, there may be several programs available in your area to provide financial relief and aid.
- USA.gov: This government site provides a wealth of information for financial aid during and after the COVID pandemic.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): This government site provides multiple resources for financial aid and assistance to people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.