Calgary

Conference explores suicide among entrepreneurs

A Calgary entrepreneur held a conference over the weekend with the hope of warning others about the potential risks of suicide among small business owners.

'Our minds are programmed to think that suicide has no relevance to building a business'

Participants talk about the stresses involved in being an entrepreneur and how that can lead to a risk of suicide at a conference in downtown Calgary. (Kate Adach/CBC)

A Calgary entrepreneur held a conference over the weekend with the hope of warning others about the potential risks of suicide among small-business owners.

Melissa Mackey, of Ignite Me Now, hosted the event in downtown Calgary aimed at allowing others share their own struggles.

"So many entrepreneurs feel that there's no hope," she said. "Our minds are programmed to think that suicide has no relevance to building a business, starting a business, running a business but it actually has everything to do with it because of all these feelings that entrepreneurs experience."

The spot on Mackey's wrist where she cut herself as a teenager is now covered with a tattoo that reads "courage."

Event organizer Melissa Mackey has a 'courage' tattoo where she used to cut herself as a teenager. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Some spoke at the event about the stress of starting out, others spoke about the added stress that can come with achieving success.

Marija Pavkovic runs 21 companies and says she knows about stress — and she also knows three entrepreneurs who took their own lives.

"They had quite a few employees, really high revenues, lots of success in their business," she said. "And I think they'd achieved a point where the burden of what they were carrying and maintaining on a regular basis was too much for them to bear on their shoulders alone."

The Centre for Suicide Prevention doesn't have data on the number of small business owners who commit suicide, but executive director Mara Grunau believes an entrepreneur's lifestyle could result in isolation.

Mackey believes talking openly is key.

"That's the biggest thing," she said. "Entrepreneurs need support."

Anyone who feels they or someone else may be at risk of suicide can reach out to the Calgary Distress Centre for help at 403-266-4357.

Mackey plans to hold a similar session in Vancouver next month.

With files from Kate Adach

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