When it comes to mental health, there are many factors that can protect and enhance our wellbeing, helping to mitigate the effects of stress, day-to-day challenges and adverse events. However, there are also risk factors which can contribute to poor mental health and counteract the effects of protective factors. Most people have a balance of both risk and protective factors, it’s when risk factors outweigh the protective factors that you may experience mental-ill health or distress.
Risk factors can emerge from a variety of places in our lives, such as relationships, living situations and work. In fact, research has shown that small business owners experience symptoms of depression and anxiety at higher rates than the general population due to the unique business stressors they face. This includes things like juggling multiple responsibilities, being responsible for employees, and difficulty taking time off. Ahead for Business is a digital hub designed by Everymind to support the mental health of small business owners facing these business stressors. The digital hub hosts a variety of resources tailored to the unique needs of small business owners. It also hosts a variety of self check-ups which help small business owners identify areas where they may need support, and provides resource recommendations based on their responses.
Small businesses are found across every industry, but those in agriculture, forestry, and fishing make up the largest share of small business employment in Australia. Due to the nature of their work, those working in agricultural industries face a variety of additional stressors when compared to other industries. This can include things like adverse weather events and pest and disease outbreaks. On top of these stressors, those living in rural and remote areas face additional challenges for mental health such as isolation and difficulty accessing services. The overlapping factors of being a small agribusiness owner living in a rural or remote location can have a cumulative and negative impact on mental health. It is therefore important to focus on this unique population and create resources and supports that are tailored to these unique circumstances.
The Rural Agribusiness Wellbeing Project brings all these elements together, with a focus on creating tailored mental health resources for small agribusiness owners in rural and remote areas. The project is currently in its first stages, which involves consultation with small agribusiness owners through surveys and interviews to gain a better understanding of their needs, and how these might differ from other small business owners or those living in metropolitan areas. Preliminary data has revealed that the top stressors and risk factors for rural agribusiness owners are adverse weather events such as drought, floods, and bushfires, financial stress, and red tape. The findings also highlight that some key protective factors are making time to see family and friends, doing something they are passionate about, and managing work-life balance.
The findings of these surveys and interviews will be used to inform the development of an interactive, online wellbeing plan for small agribusiness owners in rural and remote areas. The plan will help rural agribusiness owners prepare for and overcome risk factors, and emphasise the importance of their unique protective factors. As part of the project, a series of videos will also be produced with small agribusiness owners to share their impacts of making a wellbeing plan and combat the stigma surrounding help-seeking.