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Business advisers set to play key role in small business mental health

Business advisers will soon be able to better support small-medium business owners with a free workplace mental health program developed by Deakin University and partner organisations.

The Counting on U project received a $2.4M grant from the Australian Government to provide business advisers with mental health first aid training and builds on an earlier $1.1M National Health and Medical Research Council grant.

Counting on U is one of two programs (alongside New Access for Small Business Owners program) funded by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resource’s BusinessBalance initiative to provide mental health services and support to small-medium business owners.

The project recognises the mental health challenges faced by small-medium business owners. The 2020 Small business and mental health report revealed one in three small business owners experienced stress, depression or anxiety over the past 12 months. Their key concerns are finance, business viability and employee welfare. The study also found that small business owners are reluctant to report stress or seek help.

There has been additional funding support from Deakin University business partners, including:

  • Beyond Blue
  • Institute of Public Accountants (IPA)
  • Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFA)
  • WorkSafe Victoria

The Counting on U project will be delivered via:

  • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand
  • CPA Australia
  • Institute of Public Accountants
  • Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

The training has been co-designed and facilitated by Mentally Well Workplaces. Registered financial planners and insolvency practitioners who provide advice to small-medium business clients are also welcome to participate.

How will Counting on U help?

Business advisers are often the first to detect signs of stress in their clients (and can be uniquely positioned as mental health “first responders”), the Counting on U program is not designed to steer them towards a mental health or financial counselling role.

Rather, it’s providing the skills for deeper conversations about financial distress and ways in which advisers can support clients experiencing mental health problems until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolved.

Counting on U is online and free, the program provides training in client relationship building and mental health first aid (MHFA). The program:

  • is presented with tailored information
  • is accessible by live video learning
  • is offered with booster sessions
  • is offered with MHFA support
  • has evaluation activities with feedback from small-medium business owners
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