Warning signs of mental ill-health

Did you know that small business owners may experience depression, anxiety and stress at higher levels than the general community? Knowing the warning signs and taking action early is important.

If information on this page raises any issues for you or if you need immediate assistance, please contact one of the crisis services.

Mental ill-health can affect small business owners of all ages and genders. It can affect those in rural or metropolitan areas and can affect business owners across a range of industries.

It is important to identify potential problems early to reduce the impact it may have on your life and your business. If you experience mental ill-health, you are also at increased risk of physical health problems and injury at work. Taking action early can therefore bring multiple benefits.

Have things changed for you?

Would you ignore a clunk in your car and just keep driving it to see what happens? A 'clunk' in your car may indicate a small problem that fixes itself with time or it may be an early warning sign of a much bigger problem. It is the same with our mental health – so it is always best to have it checked to be sure.

There are a number of early warning signs that indicate you may be experiencing mental ill-health.

Signs that it may be depression or anxiety

You may be experiencing depression or anxiety if, for more than two weeks, you have had an unexplained change in your behaviour – for example, more sad, miserable, worried or withdrawn than you usually are.

It’s important to remember that we all experience some of these behaviours from time to time, and it may not necessarily mean you're experiencing depression or anxiety.

Have you been behaving differently?

A shift in behaviour may indicate a warning sign of mental ill-health. Be conscious of:

  • not getting things done at work
  • finding it hard to concentrate or forgetting things
  • withdrawing from close family and friends
  • avoiding particular places or situations
  • not going out anymore, when you used to be quite social
  • relying on alcohol or drugs to feel better.

Have you been feeling any of the following?


If you have been feeling any of the following consistently, make sure you talk to someone you trust or a GP. These feelings may include:

  • overwhelmed
  • irritable or frustrated
  • lacking in confidence
  • unhappy for no reason
  • indecisive or finding decisions hard to make
  • nervous, anxious or on edge
  • worrying, without being able to stop.

Have you found it difficult to switch off negative thoughts?

Negative thoughts can slowly creep in, so be sure to recognise when they start to take over. Negative thoughts may include:

  • 'I'm a failure'; 'I'm worthless'
  • 'Nothing good ever happens to me'
  • 'People would be better off without me'
  • 'I’m so afraid something bad will happen.'

How have you been feeling physically?

It is important to get help early as mental ill-health conditions are treatable. Be mindful of these physical warnings:

  • tired all the time
  • sick and run down
  • headaches and muscle pains
  • churning gut
  • racing heart, tightening of the chest or quick breathing
  • difficulty relaxing
  • sleep problems
  • loss or change of appetite
  • significant weight loss or gain.

Depression affects one million Australians and anxiety affects two million Australians each year - so you are not alone if you are experiencing these thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Take action now

You can make a big difference to yourself and your business by taking action now. Take action now by:

  • go to our homepage and do the mental health screen to get some feedback on what the issue might be. It will take about 5 minutes to complete
  • making an appointment with your GP to talk about what you have noticed
  • talking to someone you trust about what has been going on – a friend, family member, colleague.

Did you find this helpful?

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