Years ago, when I was discharged after a six-month stay in the mental hospital, I thought I might never have a job again. Now, a decade and a half later, I feel the same way- but not because I’m depressed. It’s my love of entrepreneurship and the joys of self-employment that have made me willing to forgo a real job.

Those joys include the flexibility that comes with being able to set my own hours, work from home, and be my own boss. Not to mention the ability to take guilt-free breaks, nap when I need to and work in my pyjamas.  As a creative person living with a mental illness, I thrive on the freedom to be myself that entrepreneurship allows me.

"I thrive on the freedom to be myself that entrepreneurship allows me."

According to Marc Porter, Employment Educator with the Consumer Initiative Centre (CIC) in Dartmouth, it is the flexibility of entrepreneurship that attracts people living with a mental illness. Many feel that self-employment is a “very realistic option” by which to earn a living, compared to traditional employment.    

Brian Aird, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network (EDN), a provincial organization based in Halifax, would have to agree. “Entrepreneurship is a viable career option for many persons with disabilities, and a means to help them climb into the driver’s seat when it comes to their economic future.”

EDN offers business counseling, referrals, information, and networking opportunities for established and aspiring entrepreneurs with disabilities, including those living with mental illness, in Nova Scotia. The Consumer Initiative Centre offers programs specifically to people living with mental illness, including a 21 module course on Skills Development  for Entrepreneurs, which will soon be available online.

Both EDN and CIC offer one-on-one support for those exploring entrepreneurship or already established in business. According to Marc Porter, the CIC’s comprehensive assistance with business plan development and peer support are what sets it apart from other entrepreneurship-related programs.

I have been a member of EDN since its beginning more than a decade ago. Over the course of that time I have developed from a part-time freelance writer to a fulltime writer and workshop facilitator. I have greatly appreciated having a community of entrepreneurs to interact with, and to be able to take advantage of the expertise available through my connections with EDN.

Despite my positive experience with self-employment,  I know not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship.  According to Marc Porter,  “You have to have passion, patience, persistence and a positive attitude,” as well as a sound business idea. For those who want take the first step to explore whether self-employment is right for them,  both EDN and CIC offer entreprenurial self-assessment tools.

"I am glad I took the leap. "

If  entrepreneurship is right for you, it can mean a satisfying livelihood, one that pays the bills and accommodates the needs of a person living with a mental illness.

I am glad I took the leap.  

Check out the Consumer Initiative Centre’s  Entrepreneurship and Employability Enhancement Program and the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network.

About Anna Quon.

Anna is an accomplished freelance/creative writer and writing workshop facilitator. She lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  She is passionate about many things, especially writing. It is through her writing, and her volunteer work with community organizations, that Anna honours the lives of people who, like her, are living with mental illness.

In 2008, Anna received the Inspiring Lives Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.

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