New funding announced to support expansion of mental health program for Hunter small business 

New funding announced to support expansion of mental health program for Hunter small business 

Hunter-based national mental health and suicide prevention Institute, Everymind has received a $3.1 million grant to support the mental health of small business owners as part of the Federal Government’s economic support package for Australia’s small business sector.

Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Senator, the Hon Michaelia Cash announced the grant on 9 December saying the new package was part of the government’s strong focus on small business as a key economic driver, and that it was the first-time mental health had been linked to productivity.

“I have met with hundreds of small businesses across Australia during the past few months and mental health has been a key issue effecting small businesses across the country, no matter the size or the sector, with Australia’s 1.4 million sole traders particularly impacted by this issue,” Michaelia said.

“Mental health in small business is intrinsically linked to our nation’s economic productivity, with the estimated cost to the Australian economy each year in lost productivity due to mental health issues $12.8 billion.

“This is an area that we need to invest in – not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the smart thing to do.”
The $3.1 million grant to Everymind follows an initial $1.1 million provided by the icare foundation in 2017 to develop Ahead for Business.

Ahead for Business is a fit-for-purpose response to the mental health and wellbeing needs of small business owners and sole traders, which includes a digital platform (website and app) that connects them to tools, programs and interventions to support their mental health and wellbeing; tailored to their specific needs.

The program has been developed by Everymind, working in partnership with NSW small business owners and sole traders, key state and national agencies supporting small business, and the icare foundation who has invested in the development and initial trial of the program in NSW.

Small business owners in Lake Macquarie, Singleton and Parramatta have been the first to gain access to the digital platform, local events and community supports which form part of the program.

Everymind Director, Jaelea Skehan said Ahead for Business was designed following research conducted with icare in 2017 into the stressors small business owners face, and the gaps in existing support for this sector.

“Small business owners face a range of stressors including long working hours, feeling obliged to work when sick, multiple responsibilities, and financial stress,” Jaelea said.

“We also know from our research that many small business owners were concerned about the impact of the business on the family and many were feeling disconnected or isolated in their business.”

Jaelea said the website and app are designed to support sole traders and small business owners to assess their current situation and direct them to relevant information and supports tailored to their needs. It also enables small business owners to identify simple things they can include in their everyday routine and provides templates to develop their own Business Mental Health Plan.

“Ahead for Business not only builds awareness about the importance of mental health and wellbeing within the small business community, it connects people immediately with tools, resources and available supports,” Jaelea said.

Jaelea said small business owners have consistently identified mental health as a key issue for them, so the investment in their mental health from the Minister for Small Business is welcomed.

“We have been really fortunate to partner with icare foundation and small business in NSW to co-design the Ahead for Business digital platform and community engagement strategies. This national investment from Minister Cash enables us to expand the trial of the full program into rural areas of NSW and other urban and regional sites across Australia,” Jaelea said.

Everymind will continue to work with small business owners, as well as state and national leaders in small business and mental health, to further develop the program. The existing trial with regions in NSW will be critical to the longer-term success of the approach.

The expanded trial will be managed by Everymind, drawing on the collective expertise of the current Leadership Group for the program, e-mental health and research knowledge from the University of Newcastle, and with the extension of trial sites into rural areas, the knowledge and experience of the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.

The first version of the Ahead for Business platform is now live and available in the three trial areas, including Lake Macquarie, Paramatta and Singleton.

IMAGE | Everymind Director, Jaelea Skehan with Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Senator, the Hon Michaelia Cash.


Everymind is a leading national institute dedicated to reducing mental ill-health, reducing suicide and improving wellbeing. It has been delivering best practice, evidenced-based mental health and suicide prevention programs for over 25 years.

At Everymind, the team understands prevention approaches and isable to translate evidence to deliver effective and tailored responses that have the capacity to be scaled nationally and globally. Their approach builds the capability and capacity of others for the greatest reach and sustainable outcomes.

Everymind is committed to working in partnership with the communities it serves, including those who have personal experience of mental ill-health and suicide. Itacknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of the land it's teamlives and works on.

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