Free seminar for small business owners to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

A new, innovative, Australian program, including an interactive website and app, has been developed specifically for small business owners to give them practical resources and tools to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

In NSW, the small business sector makes up almost 98 per cent of all businesses, employs 1.51 million people, contributes approximately $41.61 billion in annual wages and salaries and contributes more than $269.32 billion to annual sales and service income (NSW Small Business Commissioner).

Ahead for Business will be activated initially in three sites across NSW in October – Lake Macquarie, Singleton and Parramatta. Local business owners are being invited to register to attend a free event in each area to find out more and network with other locals in small business. 

The program has been developed by Hunter-based mental health and suicide prevention institute Everymind in partnership with the icare Foundation and NSW small business owners.

Ahead for Business information and networking event will be held locally on Wednesday, October 31 at the Charbonnier Hotel from 5:30-7:30pm

Everymind director Jaelea Skehan said Ahead for Business was designed following research conducted in 2017 into the stressors small business owners face and the gaps in existing support for this sector.

Everymind director Jaelea Skehan

Everymind director Jaelea Skehan

Ms Skehan said small businesses make up almost 98% of all NSW businesses and are the backbone of the economy and the community. Yet, until recently, there has been very little focus on wellbeing of small business owners.

“Small business owners face a range of stressors including long working hours, feeling obliged to work when sick, multiple responsibilities, and financial stress,” said Ms Skehan.

“We also know from our research that many small business owners were concerned about the impact of the business on the family and many were feeling disconnected or isolated in their business,” she said.

A survey of more than 440 small business owners showed they had higher levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety than the national average. Stress levels were high too with 57.6% falling outside the “normal” range.

Ms Skehan said the website and app will help people to assess their current situation and direct them to relevant information and available supports tailored to their specific needs. It also enables people to identify simple things they can include in their everyday routine and provides templates to develop their own Business Mental Health Plan.

“Ahead for Business not only builds awareness about the importance of mental health and wellbeing within the small business community, it connects people immediately with tools, resources and supports.

“We listened to small business owners and the online screening tools and resources on the Ahead for Business portal can be accessed discreetly, 24 hours a day from home or work, to help to prevent and manage stressors and support early help-seeking.

“Whether people are new to small business, are running a side hustle or have many years of experience in business, it is important they are encouraged to focus on the most important asset that their business has - themselves.

Ms Skehan said the upcoming information event is a great opportunity for small business owners in Singleton to be the first to start using the program and the range of tailored supports it provides.

Singleton Business Chamber president Sue Gilroy has welcomed the trial in the Singleton shire.

She acknowledges the personal and mental challenges small businesses owners face and the importance of reaching out for support when it’s needed.

“A healthy mind means a healthy business. Those owning or working in small business should invest in themselves as much as they do in their work” she said.

The Singleton event is being held in partnership with The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program and Singleton Business Chamber. Joining Ms Skehan to speak at the event are founder of the business Billy Goat Soap Leanne Faulkner and former Wallaby player, Clyde Rathbone.

October is Mental Health Month and Small Business Month in NSW.

For more information and to register for this free event visit the Everymind website