Running or owning a small business can be stressful, even when things are going well, never mind if you have money worries, or you’re having trouble staying on top of your accounts. The knock-on effects of anxiety, depression, stress and other mental illness can affect far more than your business, including your ability to function well and those around you.
As your trusted adviser, we understand the struggles of a small business owner and we can offer you financial counsel, but for more deep-seated support there are others better equipped to help.
The good news is that there is now greater awareness of mental health and support for those experiencing difficulties. The ATO recognise this, and have recently confirmed their commitment to support the mental health of small business owners in the lead up to World Mental Health Day on the 10 October.
In addition, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) acknowledged recently that accountants are often called upon to assist their clients who are experiencing mental health difficulties, going beyond their role as financial counsellors. We’ll keep you posted on the research IPA is running on the role of accountants in the mental health of clients running SMEs (small and medium-size enterprises).
“One accounting body has found in its surveying of small business owners, over 90 per cent say engaging with an accountant significantly lowers their anxiety…”
ATO Deputy Commissioner for Small Business, Deborah Jenkins, acknowledges that small business owners experiencing the warning signs of a mental health condition can check out the support available from the ATO at:
But what are the warning signs?
- finding it hard to concentrate;
- feeling irritable, stressed or very emotional;
- experiencing difficulty sleeping, or waking very early morning and not being able to get back to sleep;
- inability to switch off from thinking about work even when not at work;
- a change in eating and/or drinking habits (including eating less/more or drinking more);
- withdrawing from family and friends.
If your difficulties are affecting your ability to meet your tax obligations and super commitments the ATO can remove some of the stress involved. Their support includes:
- tailored payment plans;
- delaying a lodgment or payment;
- organising a call-back or assistance visit; and
- help to alleviate some of the pressure through its complex issues resolution service (see the Let’s Talk section of ATO website).
You can call the ATO direct on 13 11 42 or ask us to speak to them on your behalf by nominating us as your representative.
How to access help
While you may have heard of large companies offering employee assistance programmes, if you own and/or run your own business, you probably won’t be able to access these or offer them to your employees. There are quite a few agencies that can help if you think you, or your staff, are suffering from mental health-related issues, including:
- Beyondblue information line on: 1300 224 636;
- Lifeline (24/7) on: 13 11 14;
- Black Dog Institute at: www.blackdoginstitute.org.au;
- MensLine Australia on: 1300 78 99 78;
- Suicide Call Back service (24/7) on: 1300 659 467;
- Emergency ambulance etc, on: 000;
- Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA): www.pacfa.org.au/find-a-therapist;
- Australian Psychological Society (APS): www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist;
- Australian Clinical Psychology Association (ACPA): www.acpa.org.au/find-a-clinical-psychologist/.
Talking to your accountant may be a first step
If you are experiencing difficulties in meeting tax and super commitments or having issues with debt, talking to us is a great first step. Nothing gives peace of mind like knowing that your accounts are in order. But the thing to remember is that by also talking to someone experienced in the mental health field, you are helping yourself, your business and those around you, so don’t be alone and suffer in silence.