In a follow up to an earlier 2020 report, Small Business and Mental Health: Supporting Small Business when they are Facing Challenges, The Treasury (of the Australian Government) published a report on 12 December 2022.
The latest 2022 report, Small Business Mental Health: Through the Pandemic, is based on the findings of a survey conducted nationally over 6 weeks in early 2022 with 1,007 small business owner participants.
These reports are intended to help to increase knowledge of the issues affecting the wellbeing of small business owners and inform their support needs.
The findings indicate that there are high levels of mental ill‑health within the small business sector, suggesting a continued need for tailored small business mental health initiatives.
- Twenty‑two per cent of small business respondents — just over 1 in 5 — reported having been diagnosed with a mental ill‑health condition by a doctor or health professional in recent months. In some industry groups the figures were higher at around one in three.
- A key cause of stress for small business owners was finding a balance between the demands of work, family and personal life followed by lockdowns due to COVID‑19.
- Stigma associated with mental ill‑health is still an issue with 46 per cent of respondents thinking they would be treated poorly if they disclosed they had been diagnosed with a mental illness.
- Barriers to accessing support include the cost (54 per cent), lack of time (49 per cent), and services not understanding the needs of small businesses (39 per cent).
Ombudsman welcomes funding for critical small business mental health program
On 19 October 2022, The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Bruce Billson, welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement of $15 million in funding for free mental health and financial counselling support for small businesses in next week’s federal Budget.
“For small and family business owners, their business is not just their livelihood but a fundamental part of their life,” Mr Billson said.
“Their identities are interwoven into their business and the stakes are so much higher than just a job. Many people have invested a lifetime, and in some cases their family home, into building up their business, which amplifies the emotional challenges.
“It is vital small business owners have support and know that help is available if they need it.
“I commend Small Business Minister Julie Collins for the $10.9 million in extra funding for the New Access for Small Business Owners program operated by Beyond Blue and the extra $4 million for the Small Business Debt Hotline operated by Financial Counselling Australia.
Mr Billson said Beyond Blue’s New Access for Small Business Owners program offers free one-on-one telehealth sessions with specially trained mental health coaches providing evidence-based advice on strategies for managing stress.
“The success of the New Access for Small Business Owners program is built on it being delivered by coaches who have experience in small business. Being able to speak to someone who understands the mental load of running a small business makes a big difference,” Mr Billson said.
The Small Business Debt Helpline provides financial counselling support, particularly for small business owners who have loans secured against the family home and are uncertain about their future.
“For small business owners the stakes can be incredibly high and losing the business often means also losing the home,” Mr Billson said.
Mr Billson said he celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit that drives men and women to start a small business but their resilience is being tested and this support was vital.
“Small and family business owners are literally exhausted. There has been no reprieve from the rolling natural disasters such as floods, bushfires and drought and the lingering effects from COVID-19 and the various lockdowns and restrictions,” Mr Billson said.
“Small businesses are struggling to make rosters work and keep doors open due to labour and skills shortages; grappling with supply troubles that means critical inputs, goods and services are not always available; adjusting to higher inflation then many have experienced; rising interest rates; and on edge about cyber security fears.
“Many small businesses are not making a profit and eating into whatever reserves and personal resources they have to pay their bills and service business debts. Understandably this has taken a toll on the bottom line and wellbeing.”
More information about the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program is available by calling 1300 945 301 or on the Beyond Blue website.