Looking into the eyes of someone with severe depression can be quite confronting. In the past couple of

weeks I looked into the eyes of a man who was concerned about his business. Sales were low, profit and cash flow was tight and he worked very hard every day to turn things around. It seems this is pretty standard stuff for small to medium sized businesses in this country, particularly in rural Australia.

The build-up of issues at his work and also in his personal life, his financial life and in his mind, was becoming an issue…and, gathering momentum.  A few simple questions that, on any other day, might have been answered without batting an eyelid, today brought this man to a sudden stop in his conversation.

There became a tremor in his words and then, he could not speak. He hung his head. Tears dripped off his face, splashing onto the concrete floor between his steel capped boots.  He made fists with his hands and rubbed them tightly together, as if trying to strangle the life out of his emotions. He was fighting tooth and nail to stop this display of emotion, to stop what he thought was the embarrassment of the situation. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the imaginary levers that control his feelings. He was devastated at this show of emotions.

As a stalwart in the timber, hardware and building materials industry for over 30 years, this man’s business had struggled significantly for the last two to three years, due to lagging sales, profit leakage and poor inventory. He blamed everything he could for his situation on his competitors, staff, the economy and so on.

He was given solid solutions that he would not implement, but instead would walk away from the situation. I felt there was more to this guy and his problems than meets the eye. It was a good business with a stack of potential to return to the glory days.

Using business to fight demons

This particular business owner had been fighting for several years to keep the business alive. However, his spiraling mind was now making operating his business even harder. Although this business owner had already been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, he mistakenly thought the best way to deal with this, was by submersing himself into even more business.

He thought the best way to deal with his demons was to work harder, work longer hours, and also be tougher on the staff and management who ran his business so they too worked harder. Surely this would grow the business eventually.

But it didn’t work. The worst thing he could do was bury his demons because he simply did not understand the battleground that was taking place in his mind. He had gone to war withoutweapons, without a plan, and without knowing the enemy.

A plan of action

A few simple questions about life and business had woken up the sleeping black dog and this time, it really took hold, biting him when he least expected it, in front of other people. He has had suicidal thoughts for a long time. Mainly at night time when his mind is quiet and free from worldly distractions. He calls it his, “Dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.” Half joking, half not.

This is why I was asking him about the direction of his business and his life; to try and identify the root cause of this inactivity. I knew there was a way forward. I just had to draw it out for him, but he seemed stuck in his dilemma.

When this business owner finally broke and the walls came crashing down, he was forced to face the truth about why he was not making progress within his usually successful business. It was only then

that we managed to create a plan and turn things around. The plan catered for his inability to make decisions due to his condition. People just do not realise that in the depths of depression and anxiety,business decisions become almost impossible to make.

He should never have got that desperate, but, men are men, and we are not very open when it comes to emotions and feelings.

Helping others help themselves

In business and also in our personal lives, we all meet with or work with people suffering from depression and sadly, often people do not know that they have it, do not admit that they have it or simply do not know what to do about it.

So the best way to identify a problem is to ask yourself, your colleague or friend:  Do small things irritate you more than they should? Do you tend to overreact when something is wrong? Do you feel hopeless sometimes?

If you can look into the mirror, stare deeply into your own eyes and ask yourself, “Do I have depression?”, and your answer is “definitely not”, then I hope you are right and congratulations.

But if your answer is even “maybe”, then get yourself to a doctor and ask to be checked. It is a very simple set of questions that the doctor will ask you and the result will measure how you are being affected by depression or anxiety.

Small business owners who suffer from some form of depression often throw themselves into their work to avoid dealing with the issues. They think they are making the situation better but this is so wrong!

Small business is tough. Rural small business is very tough, and rural people can have a tendency to hide the truth about how they are being affected by things – this can be deadly!

How deadly? Suicide rates in Australia are horrendous.

If, as a community, we lost 50 lives in a week as a result of car accidents, there would be a major uproar. But the annual suicide rate is over 2,500 lives each year. That is an incredible waste and a horriblestate of affairs for all those families and friends who have to suffer the ongoing consequences of the loss.

Take this as the most serious business advice you will ever get, If you are struggling mentally, or your partner is, or maybe your employees might be having trouble… for goodness sake, notice it and talk about it. Let everyone know it is OK to open up the wound.

Yes, it might hurt. It might even be embarrassing, but it might also save your life or the life of someone you love or care about. Stop being too tough, too stubborn or too alone.

The man in this story has begun seeing a professional and is getting the right weapons that he can use in his battlefield of the mind. He is learning how to use those weapons and he is getting better at dealing with things, much to the delight of his family, friends, co-workers and employees. It is a win-win-win.

If you think you might be affected, you can use the online checklist using the link below. Take the results to your doctor.

Do something about it…Do something positive.

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/ anxiety-and-depression-checklist-k10