Mental Health Tips for Small Business

Operating a small business can be seriously rewarding, it’s why we have more than 16,000 small businesses in Geelong, but running a business also comes with challenges and the ups and downs of business can take a toll on the mental health of small business owners.

The Victorian Small Business Commissioner, Judy O’Connell - who is due to visit Geelong on Tuesday, June 6 - wants small business owners to know that while they might own the business, when it comes to dealing with the rollercoaster, they are not alone. Last month she launched a new fact sheet, Creating a Mentally Healthy Small Business as another source of help for small business operators to preserve their mental health while establishing and growing a business.

“Small business owners are often under enormous pressure and mental strain and that pressure can be exacerbated by the feeling of responsibility towards their staff, coupled with a sense of isolation,” Ms O’Connell said.

“We have developed this resource to assist small business owners to recognise if they need help and also where to find it.”

Mental health red flags can include physical tension in your neck or shoulders, feeling nauseated, changes in sleep, mood and appetite, finding it difficult to focus, feeling sad or anxious regularly, disconnecting from the people around you, and feeling overwhelmed.

Luke Hally, CEO and founder of Dragon Bill, is pleased to see the Victorian Small Business Commissioner (VSBC) raising awareness on this important issue.

“Running a small business is exhilarating, but also inherently stressful - you are responsible for bringing in the money that will pay your bills and also feed and house your family. There is no silver bullet to reduce stress or mental health pressures but there are steps you can take,” Mr Hally said.

The VSBC’s practical information highlights common mental health red flags and includes tips to navigate difficult times, as well as a list of contacts (below) that can assist small business owners if they find themselves struggling.

Whether it is for business owners experiencing mental health red flags, or who want to create a more mentally healthy workplace, there is some basic advice: talk to someone (a GP, friend or family member), check out resources online, stay connected and boost your activity with things like walks outdoors.

The VSBC is also working to develop a template for mental health strategies to help small business owners start thinking about their mental and physical health that can be incorporated into business development plans.

“If small business owners have contingency plans in place, if they do become unwell or need extended time away from their business, then these strategies will help ensure the continuing success of their operations,” Ms O’Connell said.

Help is available (source VSBC):

Listed below are a few of the services available to help both you and your team:

Heads Up: This site has lots of resources and information about mental health in Australian workplaces.  In particular, look for the section for small business owners.

Business In Mind: Located as part of the Heads Up website, Business In Mind is an online resource specifically designed to support business owners who may be experiencing mental health challenges. It provides a range of case study video vignettes using real small business owners and demonstrating that mental health challenges are common throughout the small business community.

Beyond Blue: Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. (Ph: 1300 22 4636)

Mates in Construction: An industry specific mental health service provider that supports businesses in the construction sector. (Ph: 1300 642 111)

National Centre for Farmer Health: This site provides a wide variety of health, wellbeing and safety information, including a ‘support page’ for farmers experiencing tough times. (Ph: 03 5551 8533)

The Ripple Effect: A resource for rural communities that addresses suicide in rural areas.(Ph: 03 5551 8587)

Sane: provides online information, support and connection for every Australian affected by complex mental illness through its website, peer-to-peer forums and helpline. SANE also has a range of factsheets on managing mental health in the workplace. (Ph: 1800 18 7263)

Australian Tax Office: The ATO recognises that owning and growing a small business can be difficult at times, and they have developed a web page with information to help support small business owners. The ATO also recognises that some people may feel nervous about making contact; however, they are able to assist you in a variety of ways. The website is well worth a visit.

Worksafe Victoria: WorkSafe Victoria provides information to Victorian businesses about their legal obligations for providing a safe workplace. You can access a range of information about workplace mental health and safety, including work-related stress and workplace bullying. (Ph: 1800 136 089)

Victorian workplace mental wellbeing collaboration: Tools and resources, including case studies to support workplaces in promoting positive mental wellbeing in the workplace.

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