Mental Health Awareness Month: Navigating the Stressful World of Real Estate
Real estate professionals face unique problems and challenges in their everyday practice, from the uncertain housing market landscape, long work hours, and other stressors, each taking a toll on their mental and physical health.
According to the findings of the survey on COVID-19 and mental health from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in every four Canadians aged 18 and older tested positive for signs of depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder in spring 2021, up from one in every five (21 per cent) in fall 2020. The study also demonstrated that there is still a high level of stigma around discussing mental illnesses, let alone getting treatment for them, making this a priority and a public health issue.
Many real estate professionals, such as managing broker Josh Rosenberg, did not always have the tools to deal with the constant pressure that comes with working in the real estate profession, and hitting rock bottom with his mental health was a wake-up call. "I've seen colleagues suffer due to alcoholism, drugs, and marital problems, all of which were driven by stress or a lack of guidance on navigating those challenging times," he stated.
Andrew Carros, COO of Engel & Völkers Vancouver, and seasoned real estate professional shares his experience: "As someone who has experienced the mental health toll of the real estate industry firsthand, I can attest to the importance of prioritizing human connection over profitability." The general expectation of 24/7 work from REALTORS® and the pressure to show results not only at work but on social media often pile up and leads to burnout, alcohol and drug abuse, and even divorce. "It's time for us to learn how to let go, set boundaries, and slow down and deliver quality work. We need to offer mental health support and education to ensure that REALTORS® are equipped to handle the demands of this broken system. Regulators and other actors must take responsibility for fostering a healthy office culture and investing in personal and mental health mentorship and training for its professionals," Carros concluded.
Support from peers and building a safe workplace culture have helped other professionals navigate the industry's hurdles, like Tore Jacobsen, managing broker at Macdonald Realty. "I used to think that anxiety and stress were just a normal part of the job, but it wasn't until I hit my breaking point that I realized the importance of prioritizing my mental wellness," he explains. What started as mild anxiety turned into physical discomfort, chest pain, and other symptoms that led Jacobsen to visit the hospital several times before taking a break. "It wasn't until I sought help that I realized the importance of caring for myself. I openly shared my struggles with my colleagues, which sparked a conversation that helped others with similar issues. I urge everyone to seek help and talk about it – it's a critical step in the healing process. We should all prioritize mental health, and I'm grateful for the resources and support that have helped me along the way," Jacobsen added.
Discussions around mental health, stress, and depression in real estate have become more common after the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the scarcity of resources in the industry, Rosenberg took the lead in creating the BC Realtor Wellbeing Society (BCRW), an independent organization of real estate professionals that offers peer support and services for other professionals looking for someone to talk to.
The society focuses on bridging the gap to get guidance for REALTORS®, managing brokers, and other real estate professionals dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol dependence, and other treatable illnesses. "Receiving support from people who understand our struggles and the nature of our difficulties can be valuable. We want to connect other professionals with the proper resources to help overcome their situations, have a shoulder to cry on, and understand that it is okay not to be okay," Rosenberg added.
Should you or someone you know need help, or if you'd like to volunteer to support others, BCRW is recruiting volunteers in the real estate community who want to share their strengths, expertise, and hope with those who need it by creating a support system to provide encouragement and advice. You can volunteer or access BCRW here.
Also, to spark the conversation on the importance of this topic, BCREA will be hosting a Managing and Associate Broker Community of Practice on Mental Health with Josh Rosenberg on May 10, 2023, register here.
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