The Counting on U program — available for free to members of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants and the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers — is now open for registration after a successful pilot phase in February.
Developed by Deakin University in collaboration with Beyond Blue, Mental Health First Aid Australia, WorkSafe Victoria and the IPA, the program aims to provide structured training to help accountants identify, manage and prevent various mental health conditions with their SME clients.
The program, dubbed as “one of the best courses” on the market, aims to upskill up to 5,000 practitioners with mental health first aid training by the end of the year.
CA ANZ chief executive Ainslie van Onselen said the new training program was crucial for advisers helping businesses deal with the end of JobKeeper.
“We are not out of the woods yet; many families and businesses are staring down the barrel of long-term financial problems which can often go hand in hand with mental health difficulties,” Ms van Onselen said.
“Accountants will learn not only how to recognise the signs, but also understand how to start a conversation with a client they are concerned about and refer them to professional help.”
Echoing her views, Amanda Linton, chief executive of the ICB, said the program “could not have been introduced at a more appropriate time”.
“Over the past 12 months, members have cried, stressed, had sleepless nights right alongside their clients, predominately the small business owners of Australia,” she added.
CPA Australia member Shanna Hunter and CA ANZ member Michael Rowe, who both completed the program under the pilot, said it helped them identify clients in need, and how to provide support through their “behaviour, speech and empathy”.
Likewise, for Andrew Conway, the chief executive of the IPA, the program helped him recognise signs of mental ill-health and taught him how to encourage individuals to seek professional help.
“After taking this course, I have had direct conversations and supported a number of individuals access clinical services,” Mr Conway said. “If taking this course results in one person accessing professional services sooner, then surely it is worth doing.”
For CPA Australia CEO Andrew Hunter, he believes the course will help equip practitioners with the skills to navigate potentially difficult conversations with small business clients.
“Some will seek help from their accountant, and often that’s the only professional support they get, but meanwhile, their mental health is unravelling,” Mr Hunter said.
“As with any natural disaster, the mental health effects can have a long tailwind and COVID-19 is no different. With these skills, the accounting profession is ready to provide mental health support to the community for as long as it’s needed.”
Completion of the course will be worth up to 15 CPD points, with the program valued at up to $337.
Find out more on the Counting on U program here.
If you or anyone you know is in need of support, you can contact:
• Lifeline - 13 11 14
• Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
Jotham Lian is the 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.