OTTAWA -- The fatigue, stress, anxiety and deep depression of financial strain has plagued Ottawa’s small business community through waves of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issue is so severe that a new alliance is being formed to help entrepreneurs bounce back.

Businesses in Ottawa closed their doors in the spring of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, slowly reopened heading into the summer, and then faced another 28-day lockdown in October when COVID-19 case counts began to rise again. Then, just as the busy Christmas season was getting underway, a provincewide shutdown in late December closed everything again. It was then coupled with a stay-at-home order in mid-January that is only now coming to an end.

Salon Bliss owner Sarah Cross says she is on board with the idea of a mental health alliance. Her mental health struggles started as a child following years of physical and emotional abuse.

Cross says her father was a violent man and that she can remember being made to sit in piles of manure at their horse farm and locked in a chicken coop for days. 

Lockdown is now the latest dilemma burdening her mind as she continues to lose several people she knows to suicide.

“And they’re not all entrepreneurs,” says Cross. “But we’re up to 11 since this pandemic.”

While Ottawa is set to reopen under the Orange-Restrict guidelines Tuesday, some businesses are struggling to pivot and choosing to remain closed. Others say they need more time before they can welcome clients and customers back or their business model is unable to support the Orange-Restrict guidelines.

Help is on the way

The narrative surrounding business owners and their mental health was becoming the norm.

Recognizing that, co-founder of Ottawa Special Events Michael Wood says he made the call to form an alliance.

“It’s not just, you know, small business owners,” says Wood. “It is small business owners with kids trying to maintain their business and, essentially, trying to home school their kids.”

Ottawa Public Health, Mayor Jim Watson, and provincial officials have indicated their support for the initiative.

A virtual town hall is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 23. The mayor has confirmed his attendance as a panelist.

Click here to register.