'RUOK?' Shoppers urged to check in with their small businesses

WORK WORK WORK: Gatton florist Rianna Krenske said she loved her job, but some days she just isn't OK.
WORK WORK WORK: Gatton florist Rianna Krenske said she loved her job, but some days she just isn't OK. Melanie Keyte

WORK is the first thing on Gatton florist Rianna Krenske's mind when she wakes up and the last thing she thinks of before sleep.

The constant stress and worry, a familiar feeling to many small and medium-sized business owners, is the reason community members were urged to check in with their local proprietors last week and ask, "Are you okay?”

R U OK? Day provoked people to ask others in their lives about their mental health and this year the focus was on our local shopkeepers.

Ms Krenske said she coped by designating unwind time at the end of her day but acknowledged more support from customers would be welcome.

"Just support us really, shop in town rather than out of town,” she said.

"Saying thank you is a big thing ... it makes your day when someone's appreciative of what you do.”

"I'm pretty lucky and I'm OK today, but if you asked me that on some days, I'd probably say 'no'.”

Shop My Town director Melody Jarvis said it's an important conversation to have and everybody in a community had a role to play.

"I don't think there's enough awareness of the challenges small business owners face,” she said.

"It's important for people to support them and acknowledge there's a real person behind that business.

"That person behind the counter has put their heart and soul into their business and are doing everything they can to make it survive, so just be aware of that.

"Get to know that person, befriend them and check in to say 'Are you OK?'”

However, Ms Jarvis acknowledged the business owner needs to respond with honesty for the conversation to get far.

"Often when we're struggling, whether it's financially or emotionally or something else is bothering us, it's hard to admit you're struggling,” she said.

"Give yourself those breaks and talk to people about how hard it is.

"Then you might realise, you're not alone.”

Owner of Gatton's International Food Emporium Yi-Ting Wu said when she first took over the store, she barely wanted to get up each morning because of the intense stress.

"I didn't like coming into the shop,” she said.

"(Now) when I'm working, I divide my time to work Monday to Saturday but Sunday I try to avoid all the work things.

"I separate that time for myself and that's my time with my husband and my kids, (and) we don't do anything to do with the business.”

Business owners are encouraged to make time for themselves and family, engage in honest dialogue with those they trust and recognise their own limitations.

For more information on coping with stress, anxiety and depression, visit; Lifeline's website or phone them on 13 11 14, BeyondBlue's website or phone them on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

Topics:  anxiety depression mental health ruok small businesses small business owners stress suicide prevention

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