Business leaders and peak industry representatives alike have been reporting that the last 18 months have been the hardest many small business owners have faced, according to Queensland’s Minister for Employment and Small Business, Di Farmer.
It’s the reason why she took the opportunity on Friday to direct SMEs to the mental health resources currently being offered by the government, emphasising that the issue shouldn’t be overlooked.
“The stress involved in running your own business through these uncertain and changing times cannot be understated,” Ms Farmer said.
“We know that the best thing we can do for small businesses during these incredibly challenging and stressful times is to keep up our strong health response to allow for a strong economic response.”
But she also noted that economic support, while crucial, was just part of the assistance businesses needed right now.
It’s why the Queensland Small Business Commissioner — a role initially established under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 that has now been made permanent — enlisted the Queensland Mental Health Commission, Beyond Blue, and the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training to work together on a practical guide to help small businesses navigating mental health concerns under COVID.
Queensland Small Business Commissioner Maree Adshead said the plan, which is an adaptation of a similar guide released by the Victorian Small Business Commission, served as a roadmap for businesses to identify stressors and red flags, find available support and develop practical strategies.
The concern that SMEs are facing alarming levels of stress and anxiety due to the pandemic hardships appears to be on the minds of leaders in the NSW and Victorian governments as well.
In NSW, a resource page for SMEs dealing with COVID-related issues addresses the mental health strains facing the sector, directing them to 24/7 telehealth assistance like Mental Health Line and Beyond Blue, as well as the My Business Health website run by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.
Through My Business Health, small businesses can get access to practical COVID-specific help restriction information and safe workplace plans, as well as a direct link to NewAccess for Small Business Owners, a free and confidential mental health coaching program developed by Beyond Blue, available via phone and video to businesses across the country.
Meanwhile, Victoria runs its own helpline, Partners in Wellbeing, which has an arm specifically dedicated to SME support, offering one-to-one emotional wellbeing coaching alongside financial consulting and advisory services to businesses in the state.
Victoria also embedded a number of mental health specialists within industry and business associations to provide members with immediate access to expert advisers and on-the-job training for staff to identify and respond to people in distress.
Victoria’s programs have been funded through at least 2022.