CEO Update - Small business mental health and the BIG questions

Small business mental health and the BIG questions

Imagine this scenario, or something similar, for the two million small business owners in Australia.

It’s 8pm and you’ve already had two glasses of wine and spent the last hour trawling through invoices and balancing the books. You’re still waiting on one of your large customers to pay a sizeable invoice for services that you have delivered, including the cost of materials that you had to buy in advance out of your own pocket. You have already reminded them twice and you’re hoping they’ll come back to you for more work so you don’t want to get them off side.

Your business has not progressed as quickly as you’d hoped (and as projected in the Business Plan that you put to the bank) but you still feel that with a bit more sustained effort you might get over the line.

Your sole employee, who has been with you and supported you from near the beginning, has a sick child and there have been recent tensions about working hours.

You have not had a whole day off for many months and your partner, who is sitting in the next room watching TV has started to complain about how little time you have had together.

You poor another glass of wine and set about to prepare the BAS statement for the Tax Office that is due tomorrow, as your last statement was late you can’t afford to be late again.

You can’t remember the last time that you had a good night’s sleep.

Welcome to the complex world of small business mental health.

This week I spent time with the Minster for Small Business, Michaelia Cash, and the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and experts from across small business and mental health at a Roundtable to develop strategies to support the mental health of Australia’s small business owners.

It was great to see the work of Everymind, beyondblue, HeadsUp and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance showcased, and to hear the sense of commitment to progressing similar work in future.

We asked many questions that are familiar; who is most at risk; when are people most at risk; who has contact with small business owners at critical times; what online interventions and resources might touch small business owners; who needs to be asking R U OK? An accountant, the Tax Office, other small business owners? What prevention activities can be deployed to reach people early?

In the light of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, I would also suggest a series of further questions, not just for small business mental health but much more broadly;  

  • Why don’t we disseminate existing resources more broadly – that is, on the scale required?
  • Why do we fail to take successful programs and interventions to scale after successful pilot programs? 
  • Why do we do frequently assume that new problems require new solutions, rather than a re-tooling and re-tuning of old solutions to better match new environments?
  • Why do successful programs and organisations have to rely on short-term political ‘sponsorship’ requiring them to continually justify their existence?

The Productivity Commission will be addressing big questions. Where they can identify efficiencies and eliminate waste they should do so bravely. But let’s ensure they also understand the inefficiency of failing to deploy the things we know that work, on the scale that is required to achieve effective and lasting change.  

Change that could help some two million households around the country and the communities in which those small businesses operate.

Warm regards,

Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

Join the Mental Health Australia team!

Mental Health Australia has an opportunity for an experienced Director of Policy and Projects to join the team in Canberra, on a full-time basis.

Reporting to the Deputy CEO, the Director will be responsible for providing strategic leadership and managing a small team to develop successful strategies and policies, and deliver successful projects that aim to inform and influence mental health reform, policy development and implementation.

This is an excellent senior management opportunity within a flexible, family-friendly work environment.

Learn more and download the PD


Productivity Commission Inquiry News

Western Sydney PHN community consultation

Western Sydney Primary Health Network (PHN) is inviting interested consumers and carers to provide input about mental health services in Western Sydney as part of the Productivity Commission Inquiry. The consultation will be facilitated by Director of ConNetica, John Mendoza and will be held on Friday 1 March from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. 

Read more


Mental Health News

National screening system to protect NDIS participants

This week, the Government moved to establish a nationally consistent approach to screening people who work with people with disability in the NDIS. Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher, said the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Worker Screening Database) Bill 2018, introduced into the Federal Parliament on Wednesday, would establish a national database to support a nationally consistent approach to screening people who work with NDIS participants.

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Rural health in focus at MP’s forum

The plight of rural and remote communities and their access to health services was the focus of a Federal MPs’ National Rural Health Alliance forum conducted at Parliament House this week, before a panel comprising Federal Government health ministers, Opposition spokespeople and the Australian Greens leader.

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Nourish not Neglect - Putting health on our nation’s table

The Dietitians Association of Australia started the week at Parliament House launching their Nourish not Neglect campaign, calling on the Australian Government to develop, fund and implement a new national nutrition policy. Not only will this reduce the incidence and prevalence of diet-related chronic disease risk factors and conditions among Australians, but it will also improve nutrition for the benefit of Australia’s health, wellbeing and prosperity. 

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On Monday the Mental Health Australia Executive will be holding a planning meeting for the year ahead, including looking into our Election Platform, Productivity Commission Inquiry submission and more.

On Wednesday I will be attending an address by Tanya Plibersek at the National Press Club in Canberra while a number of us will also be meeting with the National Multicultural Mental Health Project Alliance.

On Thursday I will be at Parliament House for meetings.

Member Profiles

R U OK?’s vision is a world where we’re all connected and are protected from suicide. The organisation’s mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. R U OK?’s goals are to:
1. Boost our confidence to meaningfully connect and ask about life’s ups and downs
2. Nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
3. Strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
4. Be relevant, strong and dynamic
Website –

TeamHEALTH is a for-purpose organisation that supports people dealing with mental health concerns or mental illness. The organisation’s purpose is to create community capacity for good mental health so that all people may lead a full and valued life. Team Health provides evidence based mental health services, focused on support, recovery and rehabilitation across Darwin, Palmerston and the regional and remote communities of the Northern Territory’s Top End, including; Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, Daly River, Maningrida and Gunbalanya.


Mentors and mental health professionals needed for Canberra camp in April

Feel the Magic, a grief and bereavement charity for kids aged 7-17 is coming to Canberra and will hold a ‘Camp Magic’ program on the weekend of the 5th-7th April 2019. Camper placements are already full and organisers are now actively recruiting volunteers in the Mentor and Talk Time Leader roles. Full training will be provided on the weekend of the 16th-17th March in Canberra and to find out more go to or to click on the link below.

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Batyr looking for new legends to join the herd

Batyr, a ‘for purpose’ preventative mental health organisation created by young people for young people, are looking for passionate, skilled and driven people (and unicorns!) to come on board as Program Facilitators to oversee and implement the delivery of batyr programs in schools and universities around Australia. Batyr run programs that help smash the stigma surrounding mental health and empower young people to reach out for support. A key function of the Program Facilitator role is to ensure a safe and supportive environment for individuals with lived experience of mental health issues, as well as the students hearing their stories. 

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Suicide prevention two-day workshop in Brisbane this March

The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) at Griffith University is seeking your interest and participation in a 2-day Screening Tool for Assessing Risk of Suicide (STARS) training workshop on 11-12 March 2019 in Brisbane. People who should attend are those who:
1) work frequently with suicidal persons,
2) undertake suicide risk assessment and responses with suicidal persons, and/or
3) are interested in learning more about the STARS protocol including client centred psycho-social assessment, formulation, safety planning and documentation.

Complete the STARS General EOI form to receive further details and registration payment link.

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Looking after our mental health online

The next SANE Lived Experience online forum will take place on Tuesday 19 February 2019 from 7:00pm - 9:00pm. This forum, under the topic ‘Looking after our mental health online’, asks the questions: Is our social media use having a positive or negative impact on our overall wellbeing? and; How can we balance our perception of instagram posts, facebook statuses and filtered snapchats with realistic expectations of our own lives? Visit the SANE website to learn more and join the forum.

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Power Threat Meaning Framework workshops

BlueKnot Foundation is delighted to announce a unique opportunity for practitioners to participate in Power Threat Meaning Framework workshops across Australia. This framework puts lived experience at the centre of an evidence-based understanding of mental distress, suffering and adversity. Co-designed by service users and psychologists, this framework explores the role of power in people’s lives, the kinds of threat that misuse of power poses, and the ways we have learnt to respond to those threats. 

Dates and locations
- Sydney: 25th Feb 2019
- Melbourne: 7th Mar 2019
- Brisbane: 28th Feb 2019

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small business, scott morrison, policy director, job, productivity commission