How to recognise the signs of poor mental health

11th August 2021

Recent global and local events have had a significant impact on small business owners. While owning a business comes with its perks, it can also be quite challenging to navigate through the pressures of the entrepreneurial world.

According to research by SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group), one in six South Africans suffers from mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety and substance use disorder. It is now more important than ever to turn the spotlight on mental health awareness for the sake of the champions of our economy – our small business owners.

How can you figure out if your mental health is going south?

Differentiating between the signs of poor mental health and the normal behaviours that go hand in hand with business ownership can be tricky. Recognising the signs of poor mental health is the first step to healing and overcoming any mental health difficulties you may be experiencing.

First, let’s take a look at some of the most common early warning signs. If you recognise any of these early warning signs – fear not! By being self-aware and making an effort to change your lifestyle (for example, including more activities that emphasise the importance of self-care) you may be able to overcome negative emotions and bounce back to your normal self. Sometimes, all it takes is just taking some time out to relax and doing something you enjoy to get you back on track.

What are some of the common early warning signs of deteriorating mental health?

Feeling angry and frustrated often:

     → One of your employees comes by to let you know that you’re running out of stock of a particular product and you snap at them.

Finding it difficult to concentrate: 

     → You sit down to complete a task but you find your mind drifting off and you’re unable to remain focused long enough to finish it. 

Withdrawal from social activities with friends and family:

     → Your friends have invited you for a braai over the weekend but you’d much rather stay home than go out and socialize with them.

Feeling fatigued often:

     →  No matter how long you sleep at night, you feel like you just have no energy to do a full day’s work. 

Excessive intake of alcohol as a coping mechanism:

     →  You turn to alcohol regularly because it helps you forget about your worries for a little while.

Finding it difficult to make decisions:

     →  You have the option to use a new supplier who seems to be offering you a better deal, but you just cannot decide. You may be thinking about the chances of your business taking a turn for the worse if you make the wrong decision and would rather not risk it. 

If you think the state of your mental health has reached a stage that’s worse than some of the early warning signs listed above, it would be best to consult with a certified mental health professional for help and advice.

What are some of the common warning signs of advanced mental health deterioration?

Suicidal thoughts:

     → You feel like there’s no solution to your troubles and that the only way out would be to end your life.

Poor physical health:

     → You’ve been extremely stressed out and haven’t been taking care of your physical health. You think you could be facing health complications related to heart disease, high blood pressure or a weakened immune system.

You’ve cut ties with all your close friends and family members:

     → You feel like the people around you didn’t understand what you’re going through and were making things worse by questioning you or just saying the wrong thing all the time. You couldn’t handle their interactions with you and you’ve pushed them all away thinking that would make the situation easier to resolve.

Useful Resources

There are some excellent resources out there that can help you if you’re unsure whether you require assistance from a mental health professional. By making use of these assessments, you will also have access to information about the steps forward should you require help from a professional. The following online assessments and screening tests are great tools that you can try out free of charge:

  1. Talkspace: These assessments are broken down into several categories such as anxiety, depression and panic disorder. Each category has a specialised assessment and once you’ve completed it, you get a score based on your answers. The score is ranked on a scale ranging from mild to severe.


  2. PSYCOM: There are multiple quizzes and screening tests per category. The categories include depression and anxiety. These tests are in the form of multiple choice questions.


  3. ZwavelStream Clinic: This is a Gauteng-based clinic that offers a basic mental health quiz. Their website also provides important information on treatment and support programmes.

Dear small business owners, we see you going through the most right now, trying your best to get back onto your feet. While this is completely understandable and necessary at a time such as this, we urge you to take care of yourselves, both mind and body. Please don’t forget: your mental health matters. Because you matter!

The information in this article is intended to serve as educational information and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/advanced practice provider.

Please seek professional help if you are experiencing any, or all of the above symptoms.