Businesses impacted by lockdowns struggle with mental health

It's been a tough two years financially for many employees and business owners impacted by lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, but many say it's also been a struggle mentally.

"We've lost three people to suicide in the past two years," said server Caroline Duffy.

As a server at Donaleigh's Irish Public House, Duffy says she knows the toll pandemic restrictions have taken on mental health.

"There is a lot of grief, a lot of exhaustion, a lot of worry when it comes to caring for others and making sure everyone is feeling ok mentally and emotionally," said Duffy.

It's a feeling backed by the uncertainty of layoffs with the closure of indoor dining, something Duffy has experienced five times since the start of the pandemic, as she finds herself waiting to get back to work once again.

"The word that I would use to describe it is just a complete exhaustion, feeling really defeated like you can't get ahead, and you're constantly behind," Duffy said.

It's a sentiment shared by others across the city as restaurant owners like Kent Smith of Michael & Marion's say it's getter harder and harder to stay positive.

"On the days where I come to work, and I'm not having a great day, I try and hide, I don't want my bad attitude to negatively impact anyone's experience here," said Smith. "I think the end needs to happen soon. We have all been through enough."

In a statement, the city said it's "aware that business owners are struggling not only with their own mental health, but are also having to assist their staff through issues that they may be experiencing."

It added they are in early conversations with partners about potential supports that could be offered.

It's something Blueberry Moon by the Bay has started offering with its mental health huddle once a week.

"Part of people's mental wellness is connecting and getting to chat with others, and that's been an important missing piece, and that's what we are trying to do here," said employee Maddy Garvey.

Fundraising efforts are underway through #SpeakUpForLee, in honour of one of the servers who lost her battle with mental illness.

Donaleigh's is also selling patches donning the hashtag, with proceeds going to mental health organizations.