Business owners increasingly facing mental health struggles

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Tough trading conditions are increasingly taking a toll on the mental health of small and medium-sized business owners.

The latest MYOB business monitor shows that more than a third of respondents have experienced mental distress, such as anxiety or depression, since taking over their business.

For homeowners facing decreased income, 45 percent reported mental health issues, up 10 percent from a year ago.

Anna-Louise Hoffmann, director of corporate affairs at MYOB, said the financial burden is significant and almost half of those affected in the survey also experience depression.

“In recent years, as we know, landlords have been under enormous pressure,” Hoffmann said.

“They’re managing rising bills, they’re paying salaries, they’re trying to keep their people employed, as well as trying to attract customers and increase those sales.

“It’s a lot of pressure for anyone to bear on their shoulders, so the fact that they feel a sense of overwhelm or mental anguish is completely understandable.”

Hoffmann said anxiety levels were also rising among respondents experiencing mental health problems: 77 per cent reported anxiety, up six per cent from a year ago.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Shaun Robinson said there was an urgent need for non-judgemental discussions about mental health in the workplace.

“Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health starts with creating an environment where employees feel safe to talk about their mental health without fear of judgment,” she said.

“A key to this is recognizing that our mental health is an asset and that we can have positive mental health as well as challenging times.

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“Finding ways to foster wellbeing and positive mental health in the workplace, such as implementing the Five Ways to Wellbeing, strengthens individuals and teams and makes talking about mental health less scary. Encouraging these conversations not only fosters a supportive workplace culture, but also improves overall productivity and job satisfaction.”

Robinson also noted that small business owners shouldn’t be afraid to lead by example.

“Talking about your own ways to improve personal well-being, seeking support when needed, and cultivating a culture where well-being is top of mind at work are all critical to a well-functioning business,” Robinson said.

“Supporting the mental health of small business owners is vital to the resilience and success of their businesses, as healthy, well-supported leaders are better equipped to meet challenges and lead their teams effectively.”

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