Peace of mind: helping your clients survive the silly season
The end of the year can be a very stressful time. The holiday season becomes an autoclave for our relationships and expectations, amplifying financial worries and emotional tensions. So, ironically, in what is meant to be a happy time, many people feel anything but joy. And for someone suffering from a mental health issue it can be particularly tough.
Mental health is the term used to describe illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. According to the Black Dog Institute, 20 per cent of Australians aged between 16 and 85 experience mental illness in any year. Mental illness does not discriminate, it can affect anyone. When it comes to work, people employed in industries that are characterised by high emotional or cognitive demands, such as emergency services, nursing, or frontline journalists for example, are most likely to develop a mental health issues. And amongst these vulnerable groups, is the small business community.
With “small” dominating the overall Australian business landscape, there is clearly something irresistible about running a small business that has captured our collective imaginations. But the reality of running one is challenging and the statistics for failure are sobering: 60 per cent fail within the first three years (ABS). The reasons why are many — from financial pressures, under-capitalisation, over-extending, misjudging a market and environmental disasters. When it comes to health and wellbeing, the small business operators experience a unique set of pressures and unlike employees in larger organisations, there is no workplace support program in place to help people cope in tough times.
This community is central to the IPA’s advocacy work. Over the past year, the institute has been conducting research for the second edition of the Australian Small Business White Paper, set for release early 2018. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the research results highlighted mental health and wellbeing of small business operators as key issues. But what has been an interesting a revelation is the significant role accountants play in the mental wellbeing of their clients, regularly going beyond their role as financial counsellors to assist their clients who are experiencing mental health difficulties. But this is a hard role to sustain.
The recent IPA National Congress provided a forum for members to talk about what it’s like to be at the frontline support, and over the next year the IPA will be developing member support programs and training.
But as we move through the “silly season”, how can we support our clients and ensure our own wellbeing?
Recognising signs in your clients and yourself:
While stress can be motivating, living in an enduring state of it can have an extremely detrimental impact on your health – physical and mental. Here are some signs to be aware of:
- finding it hard to concentrate
- feeling irritable, stressed or very emotional
- experiencing difficulty sleeping, or waking very early morning and not being able to get back to sleep
- a change in eating and/or drinking habits (including eating less/more or drinking more)
- inability to switch off from thinking about work even when not at work
- withdrawing from family and friends.
How to access help:
Start with your GP. Reach out to your industry association. Or contact the following agencies for information and assistance for yourself, or your clients:
- Beyondblue information line on: 1300 224 636;
- www.saneforums.org – online community support
- Lifeline (24/7) on: 13 11 14;
- Black Dog Institute
- MensLine Australia on: 1300 78 99 78
- Suicide Call Back service (24/7) on: 1300 659