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Wellbeing in rural small business

By Dr Kristina Gottschall

Imagine this scenario, or something similar, for 30% of all actively trading regional small businesses in NSW.

Fifteen months into this new business and you’re buggered. You haven’t had a holiday or even a decent break in two years. You’ve just had a row with your partner, who is sitting in the next room watching TV with the kids. They all started to complain about how much you work. Work life and home life has just blurred. You can’t remember the last time that you had a good night’s sleep.

Your business serves a rural community that has been in drought so long, people wonder what rain feels like. People are doing it tough. You’ve just been through one of the hottest summers you can remember, with thick bushfire smoke filling the air, so you and the kids couldn’t even go outside.

Little did you know the year 2020 would throw a global pandemic at you! It’s like the universe is mocking you, willing you and your business to fall apart.

It’s 10pm and you’ve already had two glasses of wine and spent the last two hours trawling through invoices and balancing the books. You’re still waiting on one of your large customers to pay a sizeable invoice for a job you did months ago. As always, you’re out of pocket because you had to buy the materials in advance. You have already reminded them twice, but they haven’t answered. But you don’t want to get them offside because word-of-mouth matters in this place.

You’re thinking about standing down your six employees because since COVID-19 there’s no income coming in. There’s still bills to pay though. You must not forget to get on that government site and see about that JobKeeper allowance or is it JobSeeker – urgh! Why do they make it so confusing…

But first you have to get onto that BAS statement for the Tax Office. It’s due tomorrow and your last statement was late you can’t afford to be late again. You think it’s probably not a good idea to pour another wine and instead you start scanning the complicated form…

Although a fictionalised account, this is what the complex world of small business mental health is like for many.

The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH), through RAMHP and our research, works to promote and support good mental health in rural NSW small business. We recognise that good mental health for business owners and employees is also key to successful businesses. Working closely with rural communities and our valued partners, we understand profoundly the challenging contexts of drought, flood, bushfire and now COVID-19, since we live in the communities we serve.

About Dr Kristina Gottschall

Researcher Dr Kristina Gottschall is the Project Lead for CRRMH, which conducted research on small business in rural sites in partnership with Everymind. The research aimed to recruit and support small business owners and those who work in small business in the Central West of NSW. Read the report here.

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