“More than clients”: Big business must play a role in promoting small business mental health

mental health

Billy Goat Soap founder Leanne Faulkner. Source: Supplied.

Mental health advocate Leanne Faulkner is calling on large firms to consider the wellbeing of their small business clients when making decisions amid ongoing concern many owners are suffering in silence.

Speaking to SmartCompany on the eve of World Mental Health Day, Faulkner, the founder of Billie Goat Soap, said business owners need to come together and support each other with mental wellbeing.

“Small business would not survive if not for the help we get from one another,” Faulkner says.

“If you feel isolated, reach out and put yourself in a space with other small business owners.”

A recent survey of 440 small business owners conducted by mental health advocacy group Everymind found the rates of symptoms associated with depression and anxiety are higher than the national average.

Stress levels are particularly bad, with 57.6% of respondents falling outside of the “normal” range.

Faulkner, who has had her own lived experience with mental health as a business owner, says a key message to communicate on World Mental Health Day 2018 is that large firms have a crucial role to play.

A total “98% of all businesses are small in this country, big business would not exist without us,” Faulkner says.

“Increasingly we’re starting to see big business understand the role they play in working with us as a cohort.

“Big businesses — think of small businesses as much more than clients.

“The more Woolworths cares about the mental health of their small business partners, the more they’ll thrive.

“It’s about understanding that we’re all responsible for one another,” she says.

Tailor-made app to support business owners

Amid ongoing concern about the accessibility of mental health support services available to small business owners, Everymind is launching a new platform designed to help provide tailored support.

From tomorrow, small business owners will be able to access Everymind’s ‘ahead for business’ mobile application, which is being trialled specifically for NSW.

The application seeks to provide business owners with a flexible, free and accessible support service, allowing them to conduct brief screens or mental health checks around common business stresses.

Everymind director Jaelea Skehan says the platform will also provide more general business information, including advice about tackling policy compliance and cash flow issues.

“We want to make sure that business owners can get recommendations about ways to manage stresses irrespective of how they’re travelling with their mental health,” Skehan tells SmartCompany.

The platform is accessible 24-hours a day, reflecting the “crazy hours” business owners often work.

A survey of SMEs conducted by Scottish Pacific recently found many small business owners are working up to 80 hours a week.

Faulkner has welcomed the new platform, saying it is important any support service for business owners recognised the unique and also constantly changing challenges they face.

“What might challenge me in startup might not challenge me as an established business,” she says.

“Mental health providers need to understand that it’s not a one-size-fits-all enterprise.”

Faulkner believes services like co-op working spaces and even local libraries can also offer important respite from the isolation of running a business, especially given most small enterprises are sole operators.

“If you have a neighbour in the bay who doesn’t seem to be themselves, even if you have nothing to do with them, reach out and ask them if they’re okay,” she advises.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell advises business owners to ensure they maintain some semblance of work-life balance.

“Small business owners looking to improve their own mental health should schedule meetings during core work hours, set realistic deadlines, take a holiday, exercise regularly and get some ‘me’ time,” Carnell says.

If you or anyone you know needs help, call:

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