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Mental health first aid training vital for accountants

Accountants have been urged to undergo mental health first aid training due to their frontline nature in dealing with clients, with one national firm leading the way in a new initiative as the nation marks R U OK? Day.

Business Jotham Lian 12 September 2019
— 2 minute read

R U OK? Day is part of a broader campaign run by the eponymous charity, aimed at tackling the issue of suicide, with the belief that meaningful conversations can help people struggling with life.


Recognising the importance of mental health in the industry, national insolvency firm Jirsch Sutherland has announced a major mental health and wellbeing program, committing to having all its partners, principals and managers obtaining the mental health first aid certificate.

The mental health first aid certificate provides simple, practical first aid skills for helping people experiencing mental health problems

Jirsch Sutherland has also teamed up with mental health advocate Beyond Blue to launch a series of seminars for business advisers that will discuss the stresses impacting business owners and directors. The seminars will be held in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

“Our aim is to increase our mental health literacy,” said Bradd Morelli, Jirsch Sutherland’s national managing partner.

“Because of the nature of our business, we are often at the frontline of owners who are dealing with great trauma; it also means we’re in a position where we can offer support.”

Mr Morelli believes other professionals on the frontline, including accountants and lawyers, should follow suit in implementing a mental health initiative.

His comments have been backed up by Deakin professor Andrew Noblet, who believes mental health literacy training should be mandated in the accounting curriculum.

“In the past, we’ve seen human services such as doctors, nurses, police officers, teachers and certainly those people need that training around mental health literacy… But I think there is a really urgent need for mental health literacy training to be included in undergraduate and post-graduate accounting courses and law courses, and other courses where you have professionals interacting with the public,” Mr Noblet said.

“It’s just a natural extension of the service that’s being provided by the accountant to then go on and say, ‘Hey, listen, I know you’re doing it tough. If I was in your situation, I’d be feeling exactly the same. But there are people out there who can help you’”.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand has since developed a mental health first aid guide to help practitioners, particularly those in rural areas, support clients who are experiencing financial difficulties and mental health problems.

“The clear message we’ve had from our members, particularly in regional and rural areas, is that there is a clear link between financial distress and mental health issues,” said CA ANZ segment support manager Catherine Kennedy.

“We’re are very clear that accountants aren’t psychologists and theyre not expected to give counselling, but they need guidance on how to have conversations and where they can seek further help.

“Days like R U OK Day help remind everyone, not just accountants, of the importance of stopping and checking in with our mates. At the end of the day, you dont need to be an expert to reach out — just a good friend and a great listener.”

Rural accountant Andy Freeman said he didn’t expect the role of being a financial practitioner in a regional town would involve providing a large amount of emotional support for clients.

“We see our clients in their most difficult times; I have to wear many hats. Particularly through the periods of drought, we see clients at the ragged edge of their financial situations,” Mr Freeman said.

“We strive to be trusted advisers, and being here in a rural town, there is a different sort of relationship than I previously experienced working as a metro accountant.”

Mental health first aid training vital for accountants
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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian is the news editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.

Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.