On Tuesday (10 December 2019), federal Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash (pictured, centre) and Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell jointly launched the My Business Health portal at an event in Canberra.
“My Business Health is a free web portal accessed via the ASBFEO website that offers practical information and resources about those day-to-day issues that keep small business owners awake at night,” Ms Carnell (pictured, left) said.
“Many small and family business owners may not be aware that their everyday worries — be it cash flow, staff-related concerns or paying suppliers — can actually cause high levels of psychological distress.
“That can have a serious impact on both mental and physical health.”
The ombudsman said that the new resource is intended to provide information and tips to deal with some of the common concerns arising at an everyday level for business owners, which in turn can impact upon their mental health.
It was funded through a $3.7 million Small Business Mental Health package announced by the federal government in 2018.
“My Business Health has been developed in consultation with EveryMind, Beyond Blue and small businesses,” Ms Carnell said.
“Mental health is a serious issue for Australia’s small business community, with the Productivity Commission’s draft report into mental health finding the cost of absenteeism and presenteeism to the sector is over $17 billion per year.
“A recently released MYOB report revealed 56 per cent of small business owners feel that running their business has directly brought on anxiety and depression [and] 48 per cent of those small business owners reported their anxiety was largely caused by financial and cash flow concerns.”
Ms Carnell concluded: “We know that it makes good business sense to invest in workplace wellbeing, with every dollar spent on creating a mentally healthy workplace providing solid return on investment.”
‘There is no off switch’
Meanwhile, Senator Cash acknowledged that for business owners and operators, there is no such thing as a break from work.
“Whether you’re a digital printer in Hobart, a carpenter in Melbourne or bringing a new product to the market here in Canberra, being a small businessperson isn’t a job, it’s a way of life,” she said.
“It’s a life that can mean working long hours, often seven days a week, having the responsibilities of managing staff, having to work when you or your child is sick at home. There is no ‘off switch’ in small business.
“And when you walk in the door at home, you are dealing with the financial pressures of not only providing for your family, but providing for the families of your staff and suppliers as well.”
Ms Cash added: “Unfortunately, with all that pressure looking after your business, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to look after yourself.”
The minister echoed Ms Carnell’s comments about the financial cost to the economy of poor mental health within Australia’s small business community.
“We also know that small business operators have a higher prevalence of depression than the national average,” she said.
“Seeking help is not always easy and research shows that there is a need for more specialised support to address mental ill-health within the sector.
“This is all about making sure small businesses can access the help they need, when they need it.”
‘Higher than average’ mental health concerns in building sector
It comes as the Housing Industry Association (HIA) announced that it had renewed its partnership with Beyond Blue to support the mental health of employees and business leaders within Australia’s housebuilding industry.
“For five years, the HIA Charitable Foundation has supported Beyond Blue in improving access to mental health resources for people in the building industry,” HIA’s managing director, Graham Wolfe, said.
“By extending this partnership to 2021, together with a further donation of $100,000 from the HIA Foundation yesterday, Beyond Blue will be able to continue to support workers across the building industry.”
According to Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman, mental health concerns are particularly prevalent among people working in Australia’s building industry.
“Beyond Blue encourages people in the building industry to know the signs of mental health conditions, to be there for their colleagues and to seek support as early as possible,” she said.
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