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Generic, stressed worker.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Tough trading conditions are taking an increasing toll on the mental health of small-to-medium-sized business owners.

The latest MYOB business monitor shows more than a third of those surveyed have experienced mental distress, such as anxiety or depression, since taking over their business.

For owners facing declining revenue, 45 percent reported mental health challenges, up 10 percent on a year ago.

MYOB corporate affairs manager Anna-Louise Hoffmann said the financial burden is significant with nearly half of those impacted in the survey also experiencing depression.

“The last few years, as we know, have seen owners come under immense pressure,” Hoffmann said.

“They are managing rising bills, they’re paying salaries, they’re trying to keep their people employed, as well as trying to get customers through the door and get those sales up.

“It’s a lot of pressure for anyone to carry on their shoulders, so the fact they’re feeling a sense of overwhelm or mental distress is completely understandable.”

Hoffmann said anxiety levels were also on the rise for those surveyed who experienced mental health challenges, with 77 percent reporting anxiety, up six percent on a year ago.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Shaun Robinson said there is an urgent need for non-judgemental discussions about mental health in the workplace.

“Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health begins with creating an environment where employees feel safe to talk about their mental health without a fear of judgement,” he said.

“A key to this is recognising that our mental health is an asset, and we can have positive mental health as well as times of challenges.

“Looking for ways to build wellbeing and positive mental health in the workplace, such as applying the Five Ways to Wellbeing, builds stronger people and teams, and makes talking about mental health less scary. Encouraging these conversations not only fosters a supportive work culture but also improves overall productivity and job satisfaction.”

Robinson also noted that small business owners should not be afraid to lead by example.

“Talking about their own ways of uplifting personal wellbeing, seeking support when needed and cultivating a culture where wellbeing is front and centre at work, are core to a well-functioning business,” Robinson said.

“Supporting small business owners’ mental health is vital for the resilience and success of their business, as healthy well-supported leaders are better equipped to navigate challenges and lead their teams effectively.”

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