Guest opinion: The mental health crisis facing business owners

Julio Fuentes
Special to The News-Press
An overwhelming majority of Americans believe the U.S. is in the grips of a full-blown mental health crisis, according to a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll.

We observe National Suicide Prevention Month every September to raise awareness for suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for people aged 10-34 and the 12th most common cause of death in the US. This issue has become an epidemic in our country. 

Sadly, things are not sunnier in the Sunshine State – the suicide rate has grown faster in Florida than in the rest of the country. The disparity could be due to Florida having some of the worst mental health care accessibility rates in the country, ranked only above Alabama and Texas in access to mental health care.

Julio Fuentes

The pandemic was especially hard on the mental health of business owners. One survey found that 45% of small business owners have reported that running a small business during the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental well-being. The numbers are worse for minority business owners; 62% reported that they experienced mental burnout during the pandemic, and a quarter of respondents reported that they were at an almost constant mental exhaustion.

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This epidemic is not only a concern for my organization, but it is also a concern for me personally. Sadly, someone in my life committed suicide, and I had no idea they were struggling. The experience was devastating to me, and it has challenged me to speak up and change how we talk about mental health in the business community. 

Here are some ways we can all try to help make a change. First, you should know the warning signs of suicide and let your loved ones know that you are always available if they need to talk about their mental health. If you or someone you love has expressed thoughts of suicide or general feelings of hopelessness, know that you are not alone and that there are many resources available to you., In July, a new 988 national suicide prevention lifeline launched. If you are experiencing a mental crisis, you can call this easy-to-remember number and talk with someone who can help. I also urge all business owners to check in on their mental health and see a therapist if they need to. Therapy does not mean you are weak - it works.

As small business owners contend with additional stressors such as inflation, lasting supply chain issues, and rising housing prices, you should check in with those who are in your life. It doesn’t matter if you think they are dealing with mental illness or not because sometimes it’s hard to see the signs of depression unless you initiate that conversation. I encourage you to just say something, you may help save a life.

Julio Fuentes, President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.