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New funding announced to support expansion of mental health program for small business

National mental health and suicide prevention institute Everymind has received a $3.1 million grant to support the mental health of small business owners as part of the Federal Government’s economic support package for Australia’s small business sector.

Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash announced the grant on Sunday saying the new package was part of the Government’s strong focus on small business as a key economic driver, and that it was the first time mental health had been linked to productivity.

“I have met with hundreds of small businesses across Australia during the last few months and mental health has been a key issue effecting small businesses across the country, no matter the size or the sector, with Australia’s 1.4 million sole traders particularly impacted by this issue,” Minister Cash said.

“Mental health in small business is intrinsically linked to our nation’s economic productivity, with the estimated cost to the Australian economy each year in lost productivity due to mental health issues $12.8 billion.

“This is an area that we need to invest in – not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the smart thing to do.”

The $3.1 million grant to Everymind follows an initial $1.1 million provided by the icare foundation in 2017 to develop Ahead for Business, a program designed specifically for small business owners to provide them with access to practical resources and tools to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Ahead for Business is a fit-for-purpose response to the mental health and wellbeing needs of small business owners and sole traders, which includes a digital platform (website and app) that connects them to tools, programs and interventions to support their mental health and wellbeing; tailored to their specific needs.

The program has been developed by Everymind, working in partnership with NSW small business owners and sole traders, key state and national agencies supporting small business, and the icare foundation who has invested in the development and initial trial of the program in NSW.

Small business owners in Lake Macquarie, Singleton and Parramatta have been the first to gain access to the digital platform, local events and community supports which form part of the program.

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

“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.”

Ms Skehan said the website and app are designed to support sole traders and small business owners to assess their current situation and direct them to relevant information and supports tailored to their needs. It also enables small business owners 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 available supports.

Ms Skehan said small business owners have consistently identified mental health as a key issue for them, so the investment in their mental health from the Minister for Small Business is welcomed.

“We have been really fortunate to partner with icare foundation and small business in NSW to co-design the Ahead for Business digital platform and community engagement strategies. This national investment from Minister Cash enables us to expand the trial of the full program into rural areas of NSW and other urban and regional sites across Australia,” said Ms Skehan.

Everymind will continue to work with small business owners, as well as state and national leaders in small business and mental health, to further develop the program. The existing trial with regions in NSW will be critical to the longer-term success of the approach.

The expanded trial will be managed by Everymind, drawing on the collective expertise of the current Leadership Group for the program, e-mental health and research knowledge from the University of Newcastle, and with the extension of trial sites into rural areas, the knowledge and experience of the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.

The first version of the Ahead for Business platform is now live and anyone working in small business, specifically in the three trial site areas, wanting to provide feedback as part of the research to help inform future development of the program, are welcome to visit the website

About the icare foundation
icare foundation is an initiative and social venture of the NSW government’s insurance and care provider, icare. icare foundation invests in research and programs aimed at preventing injury and improving the mental and physical wellbeing of people injured at work or on the road.

Published: 10 December 2018

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