Ongoing support

As a friend, family member or business colleague you can make an important contribution to someone’s recovery from mental ill-health.

Working in small business can sometimes be isolating and when someone experiences challenges with their mental health they can be tempted to isolate themselves further.

The practical, emotional and social support that a small business owner gets from others around them can be the key in helping them to stay at work or return to work while they recover.

But supporting a small business owner who is experiencing mental ill-health can also have its challenges and you might be wondering what the ‘right’ or ‘best’ thing to do is.

Here are some helpful information and tips to help you navigate the support role.

Support from family, friends and colleagues is valuable

For many people experiencing mental ill-health, their family, friends or trusted business contacts are often the first people they will feel comfortable talking to about what is going on.

Regardless of your relationship to the person, providing positive support as they work to manage their business and recover from mental ill-health can make all the difference. As a family member, friend or trusted business associate there are a range of supports you can provide to someone experiencing mental ill-health.

  • Assisting the person to manage their illness: This might include helping them to identify warning signs or triggers in the home or at work that might exacerbate their stress or worries. It could also include supporting them through the treatment process and possibly going with them to appointments, or helping them to find useful information online.
  • Providing practical assistance at home or within the business: This might include taking on more household or business responsibilities for the person so they have time to focus on their recovery. It may also mean assisting them to liaise with key business services and supports to better manage the business while they are focusing on their health.
  • Giving ongoing emotional support: This might include talking openly about mental health and making sure they know you are available to listen. Encouraging exercise, a healthy diet and involvement in social activities can also assist the person with their recovery.

Unhelpful activities

Be mindful that there are some things that will be unhelpful when someone is recovering from mental ill-health.

  • Pressuring the person to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘cheer up’.
  • Staying away or avoiding the person. People need connections, not ‘space’.
  • Encouraging them to drink more or wipe out how they’re feeling with drugs and alcohol
  • Assuming the problem will just go away.

Managing a change in the relationship

Relationships can change for a period of time when someone experiences a problem with their mental health. This can be challenging at times for the small business owner and for you as someone trying to support them.

Mental ill-health is only a part of the person’s experience, so try to separate the challenges they are experiencing from them as an individual.

Communication is key

Being able to communicate effectively is an important part of any relationship – whether it is a personal relationship or a business relationship. Improving communication skills can reduce frustration and stress on both sides.

Four basic communication skills to keep in mind are:

  • Levelling - Giving the other person information about your thoughts and feelings, rather than expecting them to read your mind.
  • Listening - Not just hearing but actively processing what others say.
  • Validating - Communicating to the other person that you have heard their position or opinion.
  • ‘I’ statements - Taking responsibility for your own wants, thoughts and feelings rather than putting the responsibility or blame on the other person.

Staying positive

We all thrive on feedback – it helps us to monitor and reflect on our own behaviour, but it can be particularly important for people experiencing depression or anxiety, as they often lose their confidence in making decisions. You may need to look for small changes or milestones that have been met, or look for effort and recognise it.

Telling others and getting support

The business owner themselves needs to be able to decide who they tell about what is going on for them. While mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and substance use disorder are very common in Australia, people can still be concerned about disclosing exactly what is happening to others. When someone owns a business they can be even more reluctant to do that for fear that their business is affected.

It is important that they have someone to talk to about what is going on, but it is also important for you to get support if you need it as well. If you are close to the person, you may be experiencing sadness, feelings of loss, or constant worry about what is going to happen to them and the business.

Remember, that taking care of your own health and mental health will help you be a good support person. Reach out to others if you need support as well, or contact a service to talk through your worries.

Did you find this helpful?

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