Rise: Supporting Business Growth, Investing in People

CAMH and Rotman School of Management challenge a whole new level of adversity

By: Ryan Moore, Staff Writer

Adversity plays an important role in life and entrepreneurship. There is a certain poetic nature in taking a negative and turning it into a positive.

William Shakespeare conveyed the message of adversity brilliantly when he wrote in Henry VI, Part 3, “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course,” or in his play As You Like It, when he wrote, “Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”

Adversity has been a constant companion to civil right movements and still is today. As Malcolm X once said, “There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

These statements hold very true in the business world.

Distinguishing yourself in a world of entrepreneurs can be difficult. The adversity you face while dealing with a serious mental health issue or substance abuse problem can be doubly challenging.

Many people believe it’s important to keep busy in times of adversity, to plow your fears and frustrations into positive action.

As with running a business, mental well-being is something that often comes with hard work. But what if the work of starting and running a business helps you manage your symptoms?

New studies indicate that consumers of mental health services, when given work which develops their capabilities, are able to fight off symptoms of anxiety and depression which can often interfere with their ability to succeed.

By 2020 it is estimated that depressive illnesses will become the second leading cause of disease burden worldwide and the leading cause in developed countries like Canada (Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health).

The 1998 report published by Health Canada estimated that mental health problems cost about $14.4 billion.

The stigma surrounding these mental health issues also create barriers and excessive “red tape” when there doesn’t need to be.


Rise Asset Development is a charity with branches in Toronto and Ottawa designed to provide micro-financing and mentorship to entrepreneurs living with mental health and addiction challenges.

Depending on the entrepreneur’s stage of development, and the capacity of the business, Rise provides business loans, leases and business financing up to $25,000.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Rotman School of Management from the University of Toronto lend their experience and expertise and sit on the advisory board.

Rise placed third in the Social Entrepreneurship in Mental Health Equity Awards for Toronto social enterprises focusing on the advancement of mental health equity.

In 2009, Sandra Rotman helped with the initial funding of Rise and initiated a pilot program to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs with mental health challenges build self-sustaining small businesses. This program was a success and helped a small group of entrepreneurs access business mentoring and investment capital, all the while improving the lives of some of the most marginalized people in society.

In 2012, Rise formed a partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Youth Services to help youth living with mental health and addiction challenges (16 to 29) over a three year period. The Government of Ontario finances business training for the entrepreneurs. Rise provides micro-financing.

“Obviously stigma associated with mental health and addiction continues to be the number one challenge for our clients and represents a huge source of adversity,” said Mary Ross, Youth Program Associate of Rise Asset Development. “The more business people are able to self-identify as having been affected by these challenges, the more normalized and better understood these kinds of challenges will become.”

Nearly six million Canadians are affected by mental health problems, depression being the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the global burden of disease (World Health Organization).

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