Time to talk mental health and succession planning

"A major cause of mental illness is anxiety, though not knowing what to do next or how to handle the responsibilities of taking over the business."

"The impact of retirement on mental health is an important consideration that is overlooked by younger generations."

    As a financial services business you might expect we focus on the numbers and business goals of a farm, but often we find ourselves sitting down with clients who feel lost after leaving the farm. Whether they’ve sold the property or handed over to the next generation we get asked the same question, “what do I do now?”

    The impact of retirement on mental health is an important consideration that is overlooked by younger generations. A person who has spent their whole life on the farm, building it up and keeping it going during hard times will find it hard to let go.

    In this article we talk about mental health and succession planning because it is just important as deciding on asset splits, financials and business goals. According to the Black Dog Institute, one in five Australians will experience mental illnesses in any year while only 35 percent will seek professional help.

    A major cause of mental illness is anxiety, though not knowing what to do next or how to handle the responsibilities of taking over the business. These are questions that should be addressed during the succession planning process.

    Identifying anxiety

    While working with families on succession planning, we often come across at least one family member who is experiencing anxiety. There are many types of anxiety, but they share common signs and symptoms, such as:

    • Very worried or afraid most of the time
    • Tense and on edge
    • Nervous or scared
    • Panicky, irritable, or agitated
    • Worried you’re going crazy
    • Detached from your body and feeling nauseous.

    When experiencing anxiety you may overthink things – everything’s going wrong, or I can’t focus on anything but what’s worrying me. You might also set yourself unrealistic expectations or have excessive fear.

    It is common for succession planning to trigger anxiety and can be a reason a sticking point or concern is not talked through during the planning process. It can also be the reason people have an angry reaction and argue which can derail the succession planning process.

    Helping get through anxiety

    There are ways you can help yourself, or a family member who you suspect is having issues with their mental health. An easy way to remember what you can do is ALGEE.

    Approach the person, assess, and assist.
    Listen and communicate non judgementally.
    Give support and information.
    Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help.
    Encourage other supports.

    Mental illness may be the reason your family is stuck and not progressing. It is really important the family member experiencing mental illness seeks the right help and is supported appropriately.

    Reach out to your local GP or the following organisation if you need support with your mental health.

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