Wellbeing

“I thought I needed to suck it up”: Community support crucial to help business owners manage mental health

Priscila Pho /

With a recent joint study between MYOB and Beyond Blue indicating over half of all SME owners experience mental health issues, there is a push for more support from the community.

Of the 56% of business owners experiencing mental health issues, 48% of these respondents cite anxiety stemming from financial and cashflow problems.

Other leading reasons for anxiety include attracting and retaining customers, not having enough family time and not having enough time for work.

This study comes on the back of the federal government’s $3.6 million policy package announced at the end of last year to tackle small business mental health issues.

Beyond Blue lead clinical advisor Dr Grant Blashki asks small businesses to be proactive in promoting wellbeing in the workplace.

“Research shows that mentally healthy workplaces attract and keep top talent, get the best out of everyone and provide a strong return on their wellbeing investment,” Blashki says.

“Taking a proactive approach to your own health and wellbeing can assist in overcoming challenges, build healthy relationships and work more productively.”

Seeking help

Blashki also encourages the small business owners themselves to be alert and to seek help.

“While it is normal to feel pressure when running a small business, you don’t have to face the challenges alone,” he says.

“Mental health support for small business owners can be as simple as talking to family, friends, peers and co-workers, or their GP, about how they are feeling.”

This advice, however, assumes the business owner is aware of any anxiety.

Spinn Business Solutions founder Tim Hoopmann told SmartCompany about the danger of ignoring warning signs.

“I ran a bookkeeping practice for over 10 years. It’s exciting running a small business and I love doing it but it can often be quite challenging,” he says.

“I was aware that things were changing but I kind of thought I needed to suck it up and get on with it. I thought it was just part of running a small business and trying to be successful.”

He further advises that everyone, small business owners included, check their behaviour and stress levels frequently.

“First and foremost, if you’re feeling something’s not right for whatever reason, even if it’s not corporate, seek help early,” he says.

“There are so many people you can talk to and a wealth of resources and a wealth of people out there who are happy to help you.

“The other thing I have learnt is that I now understand my triggers in my life that will cause stress and anxiety. I go about ensuring that if I feel any of those things coming on, I will address that. For me, exercise really helps.”

Support from the wider community

“In my case, I didn’t really have anyone to talk with, like a business coach or a mentor,” Hoopmann says.

“So often I would bring these problems home and work it over in my head over the kitchen table. Often the people in our lives bear the brunt. Often it’s quite isolating.

“There is a lot more discussion everywhere about the importance of good mental health. I think people are a lot more aware not that if they notice a change in someone’s behaviour, to have a discussion with them.

“Sometimes asking if they’re okay makes all the difference.”

The Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman, Kate Carnell, also encouraged the wider community around small businesses to be on the lookout for signs of mental stress.

“Many small business owners may not be aware that the very worries that are keeping them up at night — be it cashflow, customer demands or paying suppliers — can actually cause high levels of psychological distress and have serious impacts on their mental and physical health,” she 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.”

Beyond Blue released a new free mental health guide specifically for small business advisers, friends and families of small business owners to support them should they notice elevated anxiety levels and promote wellbeing.

If you or anyone you know needs help, call:

NOW READ: Practical tips for businesses to promote good mental health that won’t break the bank

NOW READ: Why leadership is vital for tackling workplace mental health

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Priscila Pho

Pris is a reporter at SmartCompany. You can contact her at [email protected].

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