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Free therapy sessions offered to SME owners as stress rises

12 October 2021

A new study has found that less than one in three small business owners experiencing poor mental health have sought professional help.

Only 30% of small business owners experiencing symptoms of poor mental health have sought professional help from a counsellor or therapist, according to new research by iwoca. The publishing of its report coincided with World Mental Health Day, which takes place on 10 October every year.

The survey of over 1,000 small business owners has found that a lack of information about support is the biggest problem, with one in four owners not knowing that specific help for small businesses exists. However, one in five business owners also admitted they did not feel comfortable talking about their own mental health.

The findings show that over a quarter (27%) of small business owners report that owning a business negatively impacts their mental health, 36% experience anxiety and one in five show symptoms of depression several times a month. Overall, 61% experience at least one symptom of poor mental health several times a month, up from 57% when iwoca last surveyed SME owners in January 2021.

Despite the easing of the pandemic, the survey also found that 72% small business owners are still worried about cashflow and 55% are concerned about having to temporarily close their business due to COVID. This compares to 51% and 63% respectively in January 2021.

To help support SMEs, iwoca is launching free therapy sessions for small business owners in the UK in partnership with therapy platform Spill, starting with 500 free sessions as part of a phased roll-out until the end of 2021. Business owners will be able to talk to trained mental health professionals via video and they can sign up for their free video therapy session online.

Seema Desai, chief operations officer at iwoca, said: "Our research lifts the curtain on the impact that running a business can have on the mental health of SME owners; and the pressures that many of them face have worsened throughout the pandemic.

"So we must do everything we can to ensure our coffee shops, hairdressers and electricians can access the right support - tailored to them - to help them cope with the challenges that running a business can foster."

Will Allen-Mersh, partner at Spill, said: "Looking after our mental wellbeing should always come first … we think it's important that everyone has access to therapy; and small business owners certainly shouldn't be an exception."

Rebecca Lockwood (pictured), owner of a female entrepreneur training consultancy in Yorkshire, said: "As a business owner I find myself having to really keep my mind on track. Before I trained in neuro-linguistic programming I didn't understand how to do this and would find myself comparing a lot to other people and other business owners … There's a misconception that you have to be working all the time in order to be a success. There's so much more pressure on you to make sure you get it right and we can create this perception in our minds that causes negative looping. What most people do not think about is how productive rest actually is for our mindset and mental health."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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