Your mental health vs your entrepreneurial journey: why managing both should be a policy priority
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June 28, 2021, will forever be remembered as the day my confidence as an entrepreneur officially diminished since the beginning of the global pandemic.
The president announcing adjusted level 4 of the lockdown sent a shockwave to my system: 15 months of pivoting, 15 months of uncertainty and 15 months of anxiety had reached a threshold I never imagined I would reach.
Choosing to be your own boss is a binding contract between you, your dreams and the impact you wish to make. This period is tricky though because choosing to have a boss does not translate into sustainable job security as well.
Waking up on June 28, knowing that I will be inundated with heavy-hearted calls, emails and various other communications from clients and associates on how projects have been postponed, budgets have been cut, and commissioned activities have been put on hold indefinitely. This announcement hit differently.
It arrived at a point where my optimism was depleted due to financial losses suffered during the eye of the Covid storm in 2020.
Pre-pandemic South Africa has more than 17 million people dealing with a diagnosed mental illness, with 9.8% of the adult population experiencing clinical depression at some point in their lives. Currently, there is no data on how the pandemic has affected the mental health of South African, but the visible effects of it paints a grim narrative.
The assumption that entrepreneurs have a strong mental resilience is one of the reasons why checking in on our mental health is seen as a personal responsibility and not a system or government priority. According to a 2018 study done by the American National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are affected by mental health issues.
On writing this piece, I had not found any data on this from a South African perspective. In my 13 years as an entrepreneur, I have had numerous burn- outs, depressive bouts and anxiety. Having been exposed to the numerous “interventions” for entrepreneurs, I have not come across one that is prioritising the state of my mental wellbeing.
I find it very interesting that out of the nine “support interventions” that the South African Department of Small Business Development has, there is nothing that highlights or focuses on mental health.
For an industry that contributes tremendously towards the GDP, and most importantly, job creation, I find that to be concerning. With a pandemic that compromises the very core of South Africa’s biggest job creator, surely there is someone in government who sees the importance of such interventions.
With the unearthing of what will be many Covid looting expose’s, it is sad to see that government is still prioritising perception management tactics that have nothing to do with safeguarding the wellbeing of the unsung community that is in existence to assist their mandate.
Sibulele Siko-Shosha is the founder, creative director and TV executive producer of the Dumile Group.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.
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