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Amanda Keogh Icare And Jaelea Skehan Himh 1800X797

New investment and innovation to support the mental health of small business

13 July 2017

New funding has been announced for the Hunter Institute of Mental Health to work closely with small business in NSW to co-design a new approach that better supports the mental health and wellbeing of owners and workers.

Last week Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced a $1.1 million dollar grant from the icare foundation to the Hunter Institute, to develop and trial an innovative approach that puts the mental health of small business front and centre.

Hunter Institute of Mental Health Director Jaelea Skehan said the opportunity to change the mental health of the NSW community through targeting small business is great.

“We know that well-coordinated programs implemented in workplace settings can improve mental health and wellbeing, reduce mental ill-health, reduce suicidal behaviour and  contribute to increased productivity and reduced workplace injury.

“But to date there has been limited investment in research and programs specifically targeted at the mental health and wellbeing of small business owners and their staff.

“With almost 98% of all businesses in NSW being small businesses, there is a real opportunity for NSW to show national and international leadership in this space.

“We will be working with researchers at the University of Newcastle to explore the use of technology and e-health solutions that may be successful in the small business environment.”

icare Foundation Chair Elizabeth Carr AM said the pilot program will tackle the gap in mental health support for small business owners and their staff.

“While the big end of town can combat mental health issues with employee assistance programs, small businesses - the engine that keeps the NSW state economy going – just don’t have access to the same resources.

Jaelea Skehan, Director Hunter Institute of Mental Health

“They, and their valued employees, need help. Currently, there are no specific mental health management solutions tailored to NSW small businesses.

“This initiative represents a significant investment in addressing that gap, and one that will provide essential guidance and support to many NSW small business operators, workers and communities,” Ms Carr said.

Small business owner and mental health advocate, Leanne Faulkner, knows only too well about the stresses and pressures of having and working in a small business.

“Owning a small business isn’t always easy. Managing the challenges can be a struggle and you can often feel quite isolated.

“We need more resources to support small business owners and this project is a fantastic step towards that.”

To coincide with the announcement, a research survey for those working in small business has been launched today and this will be used to inform the early stages of the project said Ms Skehan.

“This project will only be successful if we can get an  understanding of the unique experiences of small business owners and their staff, and co-design a solution that will work.

“There will be a range of ways for those who work in small business to get involved in the development and delivery of the trial program, but as a first step we would like to hear from as many people working in small business as possible so we can really comprehend the challenges that need to be addressed,” Ms
Skehan explained.

The announcement, and the launch of the survey today, has been welcomed by Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) CEO Peter Strong, who is encouraged by the focus on owners as well as employees.

“Too often we forget that small business people are just that – people.

“It is a fact that a workplace isn’t as healthy as it can be if the health of even one person is ignored, small business people, the owners, cannot be ignored.

“Caring for the mental health of small business people has been high on our agenda and we encourage anyone working in our sector to get involved and complete this important survey available from today,” said Mr Strong.

Complete survey

The online survey is available at

About HIMH

Hunter Institute of Mental Health (HIMH) has built a reputation as a leading national organisation dedicated to reducing mental illness and suicide and improving wellbeing for all Australians. For more than 20 years the Institute has been delivering successful, evidence-based mental health and suicide prevention programs from their base in Newcastle, NSW. These have made a considerable contribution to the mental health and wellbeing of many Australians. For more information their local and national prevention programs, visit

Photo: Amanda Keogh, icare General Manager, Foundation (left) and Jaelea Skehan, Director, Hunter Institute of Mental Health.

For media enquiries:

  • Brooke Cross, Communications Lead, Hunter Institute of Mental Health
  • Mobile: 0414 292 403
  • Email: [email protected]