It’s Time to Talk About Mental Health in Small Business


It’s Time to Talk About Mental Health in Small Business

I’m writing about a topic rarely discussed in entrepreneurial forums around the world – suicide.

Suicide has always been a hot topic in the press, particularly when it involves someone famous, but these days, with our access to news stories via social media, it seems to be everywhere.  The sad truth however, is that it is everywhere.

Suicide does not discriminate – it affects the rich and the poor, the famous and the average Joe, the educated and the illiterate and the successful and the not-so-much.  Not only that, but there are often no warning signs – friends and family will often look back and say “I had no idea they felt this way”, or “Why didn’t they talk to someone?”.

Having just returned from four days at the National Suicide Conference in Canberra, Australia, I was shocked to hear that although we have an all-time high awareness of mental health issues, suicide figures are on the increase.

Despite our available methods of communication, we are talking less about the things that really matter.  Isolation is a big contributing factor and for the many entrepreneurs that work from their home office, this is a huge issue.

Nearly 8 Australians lose their lives to suicide every day!  75% of these are men and excluding those aged 85+, the highest rates of suicide were observed among men aged between 40 and 54.

So, as an entrepreneur, what are some of the things that are most likely to be an issue for us?

When all else fails!

We all fail at something.  Nobody (despite the sponsored ads on Facebook) is an overnight success.

When your back is against the wall and the next deal could make or break you, you’re not sleeping, you have stress flowing out of every pore and you’re worrying how you’re going to pay your bills, knowing that Colonel Sanders failed many times before he became Mr. KFC or that JK Rowling was living on welfare before she became a millionaire author, doesn’t make a bit of difference to you.

Let’s be honest, who really cares about what anyone else failed at if we are about to go bankrupt?

Help!  I’m feeling overwhelmed.

What am I doing?  What do I need to do?  Who am I trying to sell to?  What is my message?  How much should I sell my products for?  What’s the competition doing?  How am I going to pay my bills?  What was I thinking?  Questions, questions, questions.

They fill our head from morning until night (and often our nights too) and leave us not knowing which way to turn.  These questions can get more and more insistent until we are completely unable to think logically.

“It’s easy”, say the articles, “buy a planner, a whiteboard, do bullet journals, make a 12-week plan”.  It’s not easy when you are feeling lost and unsure and thinking it can be solved by writing on a whiteboard will only leave you feeling even more overwhelmed.

All by myself…. don’t wanna be, all by myself!

I love working from home, in my pyjamas, sitting on the sofa with Netflix on in the background.  However, doing this for weeks on end without seeing real people, can be very dangerous.  The more time I spend by myself, ruminating, the less I want to go out.

But there’s a danger that like Bridget Jones, I can be found in several week’s time, being eaten by Alsatians.  Okay, not very likely I know, but we can get eaten up by doubt, fear and loneliness.

Money, money, money.

Running a business is hard work, but add onto that the challenge of financial reporting and it’s no wonder that entrepreneurs struggle emotionally.  Working out mileage, stationery purchases, operating costs, taxes, salaries (even if it’s just your own), stock, cost of premises – these are all things that take time away from the business of your business.

It is easy to put off accounting until “later” – unfortunately later often becomes never and suddenly you are a year behind in your Business Activity Statements and the Tax Office are wanting to speak to you.

So what can you do?

Talk to someone! Please talk to someone. 

In fact, talk to a number of people.  Talk to your bank manager, your investors, your partners (business and life), your mentor or coach.  Talk to the ATO – their customer service staff are all now trained in how to better deal with small business owners who live with mental health issues.  Talk to your friends, your staff, your peers and in online forums.  Talk to a therapist, a counselor, a helpline.

Please do not sit alone in your office, not knowing which way to turn.  Make a list of people you trust and who you can talk to and call them.  Do it now!

A few helpful numbers if you need them:

LIFELINE:                               13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service:              1300 659 467

Beyond Blue:                            1300 22 46 36

MensLine Australia                      1300 78 99 78

Relationships Australia:                1300 36 42 77

SANE Australia:                         1800 18 72 63

QLife (for LGBTQI)                      1800 18 45 27

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