World Mental Health Week: small business owners urged to seek help

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, has urged small-business owners struggling with the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic to seek help in World Mental Health Week, which runs from World Mental Health Day on 10 October until 17 October.

“This year, the World Mental Health Day focus is to campaign for greater investment in mental health services as the COVID crisis takes a heavy toll on wellbeing globally,” Carnell said. “The enormity of the lockdowns and the psychological distress this has caused for small-business owners cannot be underestimated.

“Given small-business loans are often secured against the family home, it means if the business goes bust they can lose their home. This is a key factor impacting small-business owners’ mental health right now,” she added. “The good news is that Australian governments at all levels have recognised and substantially boosted support in the wake of increased demand over the course of this pandemic.”

The Ombudsman highlighted the Federal Government’s announcement in last week’s Budget that they have $4.3 million to a new program for small business owners, called NewAccess for Small Business, that is expected to be rolled out in early 2021.

“This new program has formed part of the government’s $5.7 billion commitment to mental health, including $100 million to double the number of Medicare-subsidised sessions with a psychologist from 10 to 20 per year,” Carnell said.

“The NewAccess service, to begin early next year, will provide small-business owners with access to free one-on-one telehealth sessions with specially-trained mental health coaches.”

The scheme will talk to small-business owners on their own level about how they can go about managing stress, as all the coaches providing the advice themselves have experience working in the small-business sector.

“My office will be working in partnership with Beyond Blue to promote NewAccess and connect small-business owners with the service via our call centre and assistance team,” Carnell said, adding that her key message to small-business owners is that “they are not alone”.

“It’s vital to seek help if you need it,” Carnell stressed. “Our My Business Health web portal provides free practical resources to help with running your business and also links to leading mental health organisations such as Beyond Blue.”