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Filipino Canadian business owners face mental health issues due to Covid-19 pandemic

Marjorie Carmona Newman | TFC News Alberta, Canada

Posted at Sep 03 2021 11:55 AM | Updated as of Sep 04 2021 08:39 PM

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For Filipino Canadian business owners in Alberta, the pandemic meant battling not just the coronavirus but the mental anguish of running their businesses at a loss.

Grocery store owner Vilma Agasino shared they had to close their store in Edmonton when her whole family got sick with Covid-19. "Our store was closed for a month kasi we need to isolate for 14 days then after 14 days, siyempre 'yung symptoms nandun pa rin siya. So, we need to isolate once again for another one week (Our store was closed for a month because we need to isolate for 14 days then after 14 days, of course the symptoms remained)," Agasino noted.

"Hindi mo alam ‘yung paano mo ma-maintain ‘yung kita ng tindahan. Nakakahiya kasi kung minsan, naka-open kami, ilan lang ‘yung dumarating na customers. So, napakahirap during that pandemic (We didn't know how we'll manage our store. It's a shame that we're open but only a few customers were coming in. So, it was really difficult for us during that pandemic)."

Fellow Filipino Arnel Zabala had his own challenges in running his bakeshop which he started in 1998. "Our revenue went down 30 to 40% sales which is very challenging. Because we have bills to pay, rent to pay. And this year and last year, the property tax went up dramatically," Zabala said.

To help affected business owners, the Philippine Business Society of Alberta or PBSA conducted a mental health event in Edmonton. Professional psychologist Kristen Olivares advised small business owners to acknowledge and admit their mental issues.

"I would actually encourage them to have self-compassion and become aware of their own issues. I know that sometimes, admitting is the first step, right? That's why they say we have to kind of look into ourselves and admit what we’re going through first, before we actually take the next steps. You are acknowledging that you are a human first, and not just an entrepreneur," Olivares said.

A report from the Business Development Bank of Canada said that 70% of entrepreneurs have reported feeling in control of their situation, but members of certain entrepreneur groups like women, visible minorities, young entrepreneurs and those who have only partially or have not resumed business were more likely to report mental health and well-being challenges.

This comes as Alberta has recorded more than 252,000 Covid-19 cases -- 11,660 of which are active as of August 31st.