“Almost one-third of small business owners report having high levels of psychological distress, mainly due to long working hours, social isolation, customer demands, cash flow issues and conflicting demands between home and work,” said Georgie Harman, CEO of the not-for-profit Beyond Blue.
“These factors can sometimes increase the risk of developing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
“Small business owners have told Beyond Blue they want mental health resources to be available through their business networks so they can access the information through established and trusted contacts.”
The organisation unveiled its new resource on Monday (2 September), which the aim of supporting business owners to protect themselves from the effects of mental illness and psychological distress.
The guide, called Supporting small business owners to improve their mental health and wellbeing at work, includes a personal wellbeing plan for business owners as well as a workplace wellbeing plan to help them support their employees and manage their health and safety obligations around mental health.
It also provides information on how to have conversations in the workplace around mental health, which can be difficult for both parties, as well as links to a checklist for helping to identify depression and anxiety and links to relevant resources and service providers.
“The guide allows advisers, who often see first-hand how stress can affect small business owners, to play an important support role that goes beyond advice on accounts and assets,” Ms Harman said.
“It can also help the loved ones of small business owners to provide support when work is getting on top of them.”
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell praised the free guide as “a holistic approach to supporting our small business community”.
“Many small business owners may not be aware that the very worries that are keeping them up at night — be it cash flow, customer demands or paying suppliers — can actually cause high levels of psychological distress and have serious impacts on their mental and physical health,” Ms Carnell said.
“Their trusted advisers are in a good position to notice if their client is struggling to cope with these issues and to start that important conversation about their mental health.
“The guide is easy to navigate and provides business advisers with the tools they need to support their clients, without formal training in counselling.”
The ombudsman added: “We know it makes good business sense to invest in wellbeing. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers has shown that every dollar spent on creating a mentally healthy workplace results in a positive return on investment of 2.3 [per cent].”
Workplace psychologist Danielle Buckley recently provided advice for My Business readers on how to protect their own mental health, including creating dedicated space to problem-solve, finding support to share the weight of problems, having a hobby and managing work hours.
It comes a week out from national R U OK? Day on Thursday, 12 September, which aims to encourage Australians to check in with the people around them who may be suffering from poor mental health.
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