Mental health support for small business owners

The emotional toll on countless small business owners over the past 18 months has been enormous – and it’s been majorly exacerbated by the recent snap and extended lockdowns and restrictions around the country. It has prompted the creation of a national awareness campaign about a free, tailored mental health support service for small business owners developed by Beyond Blue – NewAccess for Small Business Owners program.

The new campaign comes amid new research by Xero that found almost 7 out of 10 (68%) of respondents reported the past 12 months have been more emotionally draining than any other year they’ve been in business. They survey also found small business leaders have collectively lost more than eight million hours of sleep each week due to the demands of running their small business.

Bruce Billson, ASBFEO

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Bruce Billson says the awareness campaign will raise awareness about NewAccess, which offers free one-on-one telehealth sessions with specially trained mental health coaches providing evidence-based advice on strategies for managing stress.

“It is vital small business owners know that help is available if they need it,” Billson says. “We know many small business owners have been hit hard throughout the pandemic, particularly with going in and out of lockdowns and restrictions, and that has understandably taken a toll. It’s important small business owners understand if they look after their mental health, they can also help their business.

“Our My Business Health web portal is an excellent support tool for small business owners and it links with the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program, while also providing easy-to-read, practical tips on the day-to-day tasks of running a small business.”

Practical skills to manage stress

Bradd Morelli, National Managing Partner, Jirsch Sutherland
Bradd Morelli, National Managing Partner, Jirsch Sutherland

NewAccess for Small Business Owners was launched in March this year and is currently available until March 2022. It’s a six-session confidential program run by trained mental health coaches who have small business backgrounds and develop tailored programs to help business owners overcome difficult issues and give them practical skills to manage stress. The sessions are tailored to each individual’s needs.

Bradd Morelli, Jirsch Sutherland’s National Managing Partner, says such initiatives are “to be applauded”.

“This has been an incredibly tough period,” he says. “I have heard so many stories about small business owners and directors who are at their wit’s end. A colleague was at a local café recently and one of the owners said it was his last day working there, because the stress of lockdowns had done serious damage to his mental and physical health and he needed to take time out to recover.

“More than ever, it’s important for trusted advisers to be aware of the challenges faced by small businesses. Many business owners are struggling to cope with the financial uncertainty created by lockdowns and restrictions, and over government responses to the ongoing pandemic.

“Accountants and other trusted advisers are at the frontline; they are often the first to notice the early signs that a business owner is suffering mental health issues because of their financial struggles. Often the stresses that can affect mental health are more acute for business owners because their livelihoods depend on the success of their business. That’s why it’s important to offer a hand of help.”

NewAccess is available to any small business owner aged over 18, who has 20 or fewer employees. It’s a national service and is offered over the phone or video chat, from Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm AEST. You don’t require a referral or a mental health treatment plan from a doctor to participate. You can find a coach here. 

Recognising the signs

According to Beyond Blue, some of the signs of anxiety and depression include:

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling tired and fatigued
  • being unusually tearful or emotional
  • becoming easily angered or frustrated with tasks and people
  • drinking alcohol to cope
  • avoiding social situations
  • having difficulty concentrating on tasks and making decisions

Clients showing signs of financial and mental health stress? Reach out asap

We take mental health and wellbeing at Jirsch Sutherland, which is why we created a comprehensive program called We Care Mental Health and Wellbeing program, and why many of our Managers, Partners and Principals have attained the Mental Health First Aid Certificate. We were the first insolvency practice in Australia to take this approach and are a proud GOLD Mental Health First Aid Skilled Workplace.

As insolvency and business recovery specialists, we understand better than most the day to day stresses involved in running a business and the toll a period of financial distress can take on the mental health and wellbeing of everyone involved. Often, by the time we come on board, many business owners and directors are stressed and fatigued, some are struggling to cope, are anxious and/or depressed.

Accountants are at the frontline of owners who are dealing with great trauma; it also means they’re in a position where they can offer support. If any of your clients are showing signs of financial stress, encourage them to seek professional help. And we’re here to provide support for you and your clients.


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