The Institute of Public Accountants has been exploring the role accountants play in the lives of small business owners for the last two years.
Over that time, they’ve found strong links to suggest an accountant can improve the mental health of an SME owner.
During a national roadshow, the IPA surveyed upwards of 200 SME owners, and found over 90 per cent say engaging with an accountant significantly lowers their anxiety, and that accounting clients often share harrowing tales of depression and mental instability.
Although these figures are distressing, the IPA’s chief executive Andrew Conway sees a huge opportunity for accountants to magnify the palpable impact they are having on the SME community.
“The real statistics are unfathomable, when over 1,000,000 people commit suicide each year; one every 40 seconds globally and estimated to grow to 1,500,000 each year by 2020, only two years away,” said Mr Conway earlier this year.
“As a profession, it is beyond time that we have a mature and robust discussion about this dilemma that faces our world,” he said.
“As a profession, we cannot ignore our social responsibility. That does not mean we are the fixers but more the concierge service; that when we recognise our small business clients in stress, we guide them to ensure professional assistance and solutions are achievable,” he said.
Some IPA members have been involved in taking their clients to hospital after a mental breakdown, and Mr Conway said he has personally fielded calls from accountants contemplating suicide.
“These issues are real, and we’ve got to be talking about them,” Mr Conway said.
“It’s been raised with us that small business and accountants are saying enough is enough, let’s get these issues out in the open, and hopefully help prevent someone from getting to the point of saying my business is causing me so much grief that I’m going to end it,” he said.
Help is available
If you or anyone you know is experiencing distress, these free services are available:
Lifeline, 13 11 14, www.lifeline.org.au
Suicide Call Back Service, 1300 659 467, www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
Kids Helpline, 1800 55 1800, www.kidshelp.com.au
MensLine Australia, 1300 78 99 78, www.mensline.org.au