It’s time to prioritise the mental health of SME owners

Big business, government and tertiary education have to consider the mental health of small-business owners as part of their engagement strategies and in their policies. That was the message on Thursday at COSBOA’s Vodafone National Small Business Summit in Brisbane.

In the panel session: Mental Health of Small Business Owners, Leanne Faulkner, Small Business Mental Health Advocate and COSBOA Small Business Champion 2015, passionately called on the big end of town to think about mental health issues when they deal with small-business owners.

‘Small-business owners account for more than three million of Australia’s employers and contribute significantly to the Australian economy, and yet they don’t have the protections that employees of larger businesses take for granted. If you want to build better relationships with your small-business customers, then factor in their mental health issues and consider a supportive approach.

‘Helping small businesses through the tough times will only strengthen relationships and lead to better business all round,’ stated Ms Faulkner.

Small-business owners are constantly battling with increased pressure financially, operationally and emotionally and this can lead to mental health issues. The panellists and COSBOA, as part of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance: Heads Up Campaign, call for big business to look at their strategies and resources, government to assess their policies, and for tertiary organisations to implement training that helps future entrepreneurs learn how to deal with the pressures and failures of running a business.

The session highlighted a great example of a government agency changing their approach. The ATO recently launched a new initiative working to understand how they can support small businesses better. They understand small-business people are apprehensive when contacting the ATO, however they want to be responsive and supportive. Ms Faulkner has been working with the ATO to launch this new initiative for small-business owners experiencing mental health issues.

The expert panel included Leanne Faulkner, Mental Health Advocate and Project Coordinator of Heads Up Campaign, Nick Arvanitis, Head of Research & Resource Development, beyondblue, and Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service – ACOSS.

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