From XU Magazine, 
Issue 21

Don’t take it offline!

Anyone who has ever advised small and medium business will have encountered business owners with concerning mental health problems like anxiety or depression. At the time, we’re often so focussed on the “business” that we side-step the issue by “taking it offline”, “parking” it, or finding another convenient reason to not confront our client’s mental health well-being…

But what if your client suddenly went into cardiac arrest over the conference table?  You’d call an ambulance, commence CPR and deal with the situation as best you can, right?

How do you do that for a mental health emergency?  How do you deliver mental health first aid?

First, deal with it right here, right now.  Park the strategy, drop the cash flow analysis, put the marketing collateral on hold and start talking with your client about their mental health.

Second, try to understand what’s wrong.  Get a handle on what kind of mental health issues your client is facing.  This will both help your client start to work through his or her issues, and make it easier for your when you call for help.

Third, get help.  Many organisations like Beyond Blue and Lifeline have real trained people you or your client can call to get immediate help.   It’s like having the dispatch telephonist coach you through how many compressions to deliver each minute while the ambulance is on its way.

Fourth, provide your client with information.  There is an abundance of online information available to help people like you and people like your client deal with their mental health issues.  You’ve just got to know where to look!

Right here, right now!

With mental health first aid, acting swiftly is everything:

  • If they tell you they are feeling suicidal, don’t leave them alone, unless you are concerned for your own safety.

– If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, just call 000.

  • If on the other hand you are sensing something troubling but you just can’t quite put your finger on it, early interventions is still essential so you’ve got to know how to start the conversation.- Go with what you feel comfortable with, but “RUOK?” is as good  a place to start as any!

– Listen, be empathetic and positive
– Validate their concerns
– Above all, listen!
– Keep your body language positive and attentive, maintain eye contact
– Without sounding like a recently trained call centre telephonist, repeating back to the person your understanding of their issues can also be a great way to reinforce that you are listening and they are being heard.

Get a handle

This is not time to go looking for a convenient leather couch!  You are not a bush psychologist.  But there are resources available that can help you and your client work through the nature of their mental health issues.

For example – and I’d highly recommend using this one – the Beyond Blue “K10” Anxiety and Depression Checklist can help you quickly assess whether your client is suffering from depression or anxiety. Ten quick questions can make a world of difference for you and the person you are helping.

That done, you are now in a better position to decide both how to plan future discussions with your client (about anything), and what your options are for referring him or her to a professional.

Get Help!

If you feel the situation is beyond your skills to rectify by yourself, put your client in touch with services who do it for a living.  You can call or contact Lifeline, Beyond Blue, SANE or the Suicide Call Back Service.

Provide Information

I could give you a long list of handy materials I’ve stocked away over the years, but we’re all busy, so the single most useful source of information available today is Beyond Blue’s Supporting small business owners to improve their mental health and wellbeing at work guide.  If you’ve got that in your back pocket, you really are giving your clients the best available information about how to take the needed long term steps to confront and overcome their mental health problems.  It is part of the Supporting small business resources available from Beyond Blue to help guide you .

What else?

Now that you’ve dealt with the crisis head on, it’s time to think about the medium to long term – for your client and you!

Allowing for where your relationship is on the work-to-personal spectrum, I’d definitely recommend continuing talking.  There is power in a  sympathetic ear.  Beyond that, you could suggest to your client they might like to review Actions for small business owners to improve their mental health and then set up set up a Personal Wellbeing Plan and a Workplace Wellbeing Plan. These plans can help whether you are a sole trading stuck in the trenches, or running a business with employees and all the challenges that presents.

Final Word

The first thing St John’s Ambulance teaches you about physical first aid? Preserve your own safety.  Look both ways before you rush to help someone lying on the road.  Watch out for live electric wires, sharp objects and wild animals!  Same goes for mental health first aid. Look after yourself first!

  • Here are some helpful guidelines:
  • Help the person find a way forward, but know your boundaries – you are not a psychologist!
  • Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to find a solution
  • Get help whenever you need it

Take steps to preserve and increase your own well-being:
– identify your own stress factors and develop ways to reduce them
– exercise regularly
– try not to self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs
– try relaxation exercises
– get enough good quality sleep
– eat well
– stay socially connected (with real people, not just online)
– get professional help when you need it.

Good luck!  You’ve only to talk to one person, one time, to make a world of difference for a lifetime.

Why leave it there?

Straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter for updates as they happen
We hate spam too. We NEVER sell our mailing list.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.