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