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Digital Platforms for Mental Health and Wellbeing Support SMEs in New Zealand

Small-business owners who have been stressed out now have free access to mental health and wellbeing support. Through the Digital Boost initiative, a digital mental health and wellbeing website is providing 24/7 mental health and wellbeing support to small business owners across Aotearoa to assist the small business community. According to the CEO and co-founder of a mental health app, the ongoing effect of COVID-19 on New Zealanders’ mental health has resulted in increased mental health distress.

App user-data, which provides a real-time pulse on the mental health status of the country, reflects New Zealand’s population demographics. The lockdowns in 2020 showed the proportion of those with severe mental health distress including suicidal thoughts increased 8 times and the public system is collapsing under the demand.

The platform employs artificial intelligence (AI) to assist users in identifying their mental health issues. It then connects them with personalised resources and allows them to book online appointments with mental health professionals. According to the CEO, the platform’s success thus far can be attributed to volunteers who assist with everything from marketing to sales.

During previous lockdowns, we saw that financial concern was the number one concern for our users. This will be prevalent again within small business owners now that we are in another prolonged lockdown period.

Support is provided online or via text messages by a digital wellbeing assistant. The app offered free mental health resources and assisted users in locating therapists and counsellors. It also created a personalised wellbeing plan for users to track moods, set personal goals, and manage anxiety and depression.

An education centre dedicated to the mental health of business owners and supporting their ability to develop digital skills to help their business thrive even during lockdowns for the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) is committed to the mental health of business owners and supporting their ability to develop digital skills to help their business thrive even during lockdowns. To support small business owners and their employees, Digital Boost is currently collaborating with the mental health platform to provide free online mental wellbeing support to all 35,000 Digital Boost subscribers. The education centre is ecstatic that the platform, as a small tech-enabled social enterprise, is now able to support so many other New Zealand-owned businesses.

OpenGov Asia had reported that The Digital Boost programme is an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together for New Zealand small businesses. Industry Leaders, small business owners and MBIE have designed this programme to meet the needs of the country’s SMEs. This is more pertinent as New Zealand, and indeed, the world is looking to come out of the pandemic more resilient and future-focused. Adapting to a digital world that is increasingly going online, contactless and remote will be key.

Management experts estimated that in eight weeks, the pandemic accelerated the business adoption of digital tools and services by the equivalent of five years. Research and data indicate that small businesses that leverage digital tools have a distinct competitive advantage in the digital age.

Since its launch, the platform has provided a private virtual wellbeing assistant to assist New Zealanders in gaining access to mental health support and empowering all Kiwis to proactively maintain their wellbeing through personalised wellbeing lessons and tools. “With the devastating news of another Level 4 lockdown, this has left many feeling overwhelmed and anxious for the future. We want to let small business owners know our mental health platform can support them through these difficult times, they don’t need to suffer through it alone,” said the CEO.


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