Study highlights lack of mental-health support in small businesses

An e-mental-health strategy is set to launch next year to support NSW small businesses

Study highlights lack of mental-health support in small businesses

Insurance News

By Mina Martin

Small business owners and workers are more likely to be affected by poor mental health than the general population, a new study has found. The study also revealed a lack of tailored supports for the sector, which represents 98% of all trading businesses in NSW.

To address the issue, social insurer icare and EveryMind, an institute dedicated to the prevention of mental-health illnesses, are planning to trial a comprehensive e-mental-health strategy they hope would benefit at least 7,000 NSW small businesses over the next 12 months.

Amanda Keogh, icare Foundation general manager, said the white paper highlights “an immediate need in NSW for new engagement tools for all small business owners, especially those affected by mental ill-health,” and that the icare social venture is “already well-advanced in underwriting and designing a new pilot program that will include e-mental health strategies.”

Keogh said that the program icare Foundation is developing with EveryMind will address the “lack of tailored assistance for small business owners and their workers who are living with significant levels of mental stress.”

The blurring of boundaries between home and work; financial stress due to unpredictable income; risk of business failure; and working in isolation, were among the prevalent, if not unique, factors within the sector that contribute to poor mental health, the study found.

“By focusing on early intervention, we want to increase their access to prevention, wellbeing, treatment, and peer-support options to improve wellness at work,” Keogh said. “The innovation around e-mental health is an exciting area for health professionals, as more user-friendly but sophisticated digital tools become available. We strongly believe this will make a significant difference to peoples’ lives.”

The paper also made several recommendations to address the small business sector's mental-health needs, including implementing a digital strategy to provide evidence-based prevention, treatment, and support programs for those at risk.

EveryMind Director Jaelea Skehan said the study suggests that small business owners and employees may particularly benefit from e-mental-health approaches that focus on assisting small businesses “to identify their specific needs and to easily access evidence-based prevention, treatment, training, information, and support programs to meet those needs.”

“Many small business owners talked about working long and irregular hours, often in isolation, and indicated that stigma was a barrier to accessing support,” Skehan said. “A strategy that uses digital tools, with the back-up of local services and networks, should help to overcome some of the barriers for small business – ensuring that supports are available when they need it and where they need it.”

The trial of icare Foundation and EveryMind's e-mental-health strategy for small businesses will be initially rolled out in Parramatta, Lake Macquarie, and Singleton, with the full trial set to commence in April.

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