Sanctus: A Startup Changing the Way Businesses Provide Mental Health Support

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A 2019 report by Business In The Community casts a disturbing light on just how much work needs to be done to improve the way in which businesses deal with mental health in the workplace. 

According to the report, only 41% of employees feel their organisation does enough to support those with mental health problems, while 29% of people lack confidence in their HR and Occupational Health teams when it comes to mental health support. 

Thankfully, companies such as Sanctus provide an external source of support for employees that need help with their mental health. Sanctus works by creating impartial spaces where employees can talk about their mental health and wellbeing with a professional. 

Sanctus has already supported the likes of Just Eat, Aviva, and Bulb with their mental health programmes, helping thousands of employees and further normalising the way in which mental health is perceived in the workplace. 

Startups caught up with Sanctus founder James Routledge to discuss how starting a business can have a huge impact on mental health, what led him to start Sanctus, and how Sanctus supports businesses with its mental health services.

How did starting your blog help to improve your mental health?

I began journaling privately as a way of reflecting and articulating how I was feeling, which was a great way to start opening up! I then naturally began having more conversations with founders and other people in the startups community who were feeling similar or had had trouble with their mental health in the past.

I started to write about mental health and it completely took off. People loved to read my content and they loved that I was sharing something that not many people talked about. 

How did the reaction to the blog inspire you to found Sanctus?

The reactions were like fuel – they reinforced my passion. I knew I was touching on something important – a problem that I wanted to solve – and that was enough to keep writing.

What mental health blockers face entrepreneurs and business owners?

The first is identity. For most entrepreneurs, their business is part of who they are, so if it’s not going well or you get a lot of knocks, it can feel like you’re being rejected or there’s something wrong with you. 

Secondly, when you’re a business owner, opening up can feel hard, as you’re typically the person who should have all the answers – showing any vulnerability can feel tough. 

There’s a huge perception problem in startups, as you want people to look at you and think you’re smashing it when you probably aren’t. It means that the biggest blockers are the fear of being judged, a fear of failure, and a fear of people seeing what’s happening under the surface. 

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and business owners struggling with their mental health?

First off – and the same goes for everyone – you’ve got to prioritise your mental health.

You have mental health, we all have mental health – it’s not a weakness; it’s part of who we are.

In my view, there are lots of things entrepreneurs can do to keep their mental health in check. 

  1. Find a tribe – a community of other like-minded people who understand what you’re going through and the challenges you face
  2. Find a confidant. This could be a coach/therapist or partner – someone you can truly share it all with
  3. Create separation. Create a healthy distance between you and your business 
  4. Find other passions and hobbies that create a sense of who you are outside of your work
  5. Remember to eat, sleep, and exercise

How does Sanctus help startups support employees with their mental health?

Sanctus is made up of a team of over 30 qualified coaches. Each coach pairs with a business to provide employees with a confidential and impartial space to talk about whatever is on their mind. By creating a space that’s separate from the business, employees feel that they can be honest. 

We don’t only focus on mental ill health – but the whole spectrum – so employees can engage with their Sanctus coach wherever they’re at on their mental health journey. By pairing coaches with businesses, employees can build a relationship with the same coach, ensuring consistency from session to session. 

How is Sanctus helping businesses to change their culture, boost engagement, and improve retention?

More than ever, employees want to work in an environment where they can be themselves – where they don’t have to hide their struggles, and where they feel supported beyond bean bags and fruit bowls.

We see that giving employees a space where they can open up has a knock-on effect, creating a business culture that is more open and honest. Businesses that use Sanctus to provide mental health support to their employees often say that employees have begun to share more with colleagues, managers, and HR.

If you think your business could benefit from the external mental health support that Sanctus provides, why not head over to the Sanctus website to find out more? Or, email the team on

Written by:
Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.
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