The Institute of Public Accountants is currently researching the role of accountants in the mental health of their SME clients. Chief executive Andrew Conway told Accountants Daily that he expects proving the positive impact that accountants have on their clients' wellbeing will give the association significant firepower in its lobbying with government.
In its surveying during a national small business roadshow, Mr Conway said it is becoming increasingly clear, as the association works towards producing a body of research, that accountants take on a significant role in the personal lives of clients.
The positive link between mental health and the work of accountants is well known in the accounting community, but not yet extensively formalised in accountants’ education. It has also not been sufficiently brought to the attention of government.
“Mental health for small business, as an issue, has almost reached epidemic proportions,” Mr Conway said.
“It’s important to make clear that it’s ok to talk about mental health and wellbeing in a small business context, it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s symptomatic of where the mental health agenda is nationally. As a nation, we are destigmatising mental health and talking about it more, and that should extend specifically to small business,” 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.