The Counting on U Program, is a brand new mental health initiative which has been made freely available to members of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, the Institute of Public Accountants, CPA Australia and the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, is now open for registration after a successful pilot phase took place in February.

It is estimated that close to 5,000 members of the peak accounting and bookkeeping associations will be able to benefit from the newly announced mental health training. The program, was developed by Deakin University who collaborated with Beyond Blue, WorkSafe Victoria, Mental Health First Aid Australia and the IPA.

The purpose of the program is to offer structured training to help accountants identify, manage and prevent various mental health conditions with their Small Medium Enterprise clients. The program aims to upskill over 5,000 practitioners with mental heal first aid training by the end of 2021.

The new training program will be crucial for advisers helping businesses deal with the end of JobKeeper. Many businesses and families are staring down the barrel of long-term financial problems which can often go hand in hand with mental health difficulties.

Through the new training initiative, accountants will learn not only how to recognise the signs, but how to most importantly understand how to start a conversation with a client they are concerned about and to assist with referring them to seek professional help.

Accountants who have undertaken the training during the pilot phase have spoken of its praise. They have stated that undertaking the training has helped them identify clients in need, and how to provide support through their behaviour, speech and empathy.

They believe that “if taking this course results in one person accessing professional services sooner, then surely it is worth doing.”

The program will also help provide practitioners with the skills to navigate potentially difficult conversations with small business clients.

As with any natural disaster, the mental health effects on members of society can be extreme and covid-19 is no different. With the knowledge shared via this training course, the accounting profession is ready to provide mental health support to the community whenever it is needed.

Completion of the course will be worth up to 15 CPD points, with the program valued at up to $337.

The Counting on U program is an Australian-wide, workplace mental health, and relationship-building intervention. The program aspires to provide training to business advisors to better support the needs of small-to-medium (SME) business owners. 

Mental illness is the single biggest cause of disability in Australia and SME owners are a vulnerable sector of society that are in many cases difficult to reach through traditional health services.

A recent study commissioned by the Federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources, reports that nearly 1 in 3 SME owners had experienced stress, depression, or anxiety in the past 12 months.

As a result of these concerns and the availability of this program business advisors such as; accountants, insolvency experts, bookkeepers and financial planners and are in a unique position to provide mental health support to Small Medium Enterprises.