mental health awareness


14th October, 2022

Government steps towards more mental health support for small business

A mental health and wellbeing platform that was established for Auckland SMEs last year has had 70,000 users reporting positive results and is now set to roll out across the country.

Funded under the Government’s $60 million package for the Regional Business Partner Programme and mental health support in 2021, the First Steps platform is now available to the entire country.

“There are an estimated 546,000 small businesses here in New Zealand and up to 1.2 million individuals who are owners or employees,” said Small Business Minister — Stuart Nash in a release announcing the new rollout.

“Rolling out First Steps across the country will mean that they all get access to Government-funded mental health and wellbeing tools to support them as they recover from the pandemic.

“Our recovery not only relies on economic performance — equally important is the mental health and wellbeing of all Kiwis.”

A recent report from MYOB indicates the move is a timely one, with small and medium business (SME) operators expressing increasing levels of stress and anxiety.

The report, based on a survey of 1,000 local SMEs, shows nearly a third (32 percent) of respondents have experienced a mental health condition since starting or taking over their business.

Of those who have experienced a mental health condition, 85 percent reported being affected by stress, while 71 percent said they have experienced anxiety and 39 percent have experienced depression.

Compared with the previous year, these figures show a significant increase in the proportion of SMEs experiencing stress — up nine — percentage points (76 percent in 2021), while the number of SMEs affected by anxiety rose seven percentage points (64 percent in 2021), on last year.

The wider rollout of the First Steps platform is expected to have a strong impact in this space, as it’s already been demonstrated to have positive results for 70,000 Auckland residents.

Jo Tozer, MYOB Head of Go-to-Market, says it’s great to see the Government extending the mental health and wellbeing support for SMEs.

“Our 2022 Business Monitor insights showed an increase in the proportion of local SME owners experiencing stress and anxiety, and extending targeted support designed with business owners in mind — like that provided through the ‘First Steps’ programme — is a fantastic development,” said Tozer.

“Those running our small businesses here in New Zealand are often reluctant to have discussions around mental wellbeing with their teams or share their experiences.

“But it’s important for both SME owners and their people to understand they’re not alone, and there are a range of resources to help them kickstart these conversations and support them on their journey to improve mental wellbeing, as well as proactively manage some of the unique pressures they feel.”