Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has urged struggling small-business owners to reach out for help on World Mental Health Day on 10 October.
Acknowledging the enormity of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the psychological distress this has caused for small-business owners, this year’s World Mental Health Day is focused on campaigning for greater investment in mental health services.
“Given small-business loans are often secured against the family home, it means if the business goes bust they can lose their home. This is a key factor impacting small-business owners’ mental health right now,” Ms Carnell stressed.
“The good news is that Australian governments at all levels have recognised and substantially boosted mental health support in the wake of increased demand over the course of this pandemic.”
During Tuesday’s budget reveal, the federal government committed $4.3 million to rolling out a new mental health program for small-business owners, called NewAccess for Small Business.
This new program has formed part of the government’s $5.7 billion commitment to mental health, including $100 million to double the number of Medicare-subsidised sessions with a psychologist from 10 to 20 per year.
“The NewAccess service, to begin early next year, will provide small-business owners with access to free one-on-one telehealth sessions with specially trained mental health coaches,” Ms Carnell said.
“Crucially, the NewAccess coaches providing support to small-business owners on strategies to manage stress actually have experience in small business themselves. This approach will make a real difference.”
She announced that her office will be working in partnership with Beyond Blue to promote NewAccess and connect small-business owners with the service via their call centre and assistance team.
“Finally, my message to small-business owners on World Mental Health Day is this: You are not alone,” Ms Carnell said.
“It’s vital to seek help if you need it. Our My Business Health web portal provides free practical resources to help with running your business and also links to leading mental health organisations such as Beyond Blue.”
Speaking exclusively on MyBusiness Week late last month, Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman provided some key tips that small-business owners can use to check in with themselves and their employees.
She said business owners should keep an eye out for changes in demeanour or behaviour of any employees.
“It might be that the tone of emails or whether they’re routinely late for your catch-ups or how they’re actually interacting in the online space,” Ms Harman said.
“Those are really good indicators just as changes in body language or turning up for meetings in person are also good.
“But also similarly the speed at which someone responds to what’s normal for them. If that changes dramatically and you just feel like they’ve disengaged and checked out, that’s another really good sign.
“Also changes in attitudes towards work and changes in productivity, and just that sense of you know your people and you know when things change.”
For more on Ms Harman’s tips, click here.
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else and feel that urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below:
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467