Let’s start a different conversation on workplace mental health

Finalist at the 2021 AFR Higher Education Awards for Industry Engagement

Deakin Business School’s Counting on U (CoU) team comprises a multi-disciplinary group of organisational psychologists, public health, accounting and workplace wellbeing ‘pracademics’ who specialise in the research, design and delivery of integrated workplace mental health initiatives, especially in the accounting and small business sector. We use up-to-date evidence to inform our work in supporting workplaces to create environments with wellbeing and trust at its core.

Our Flagship Training Program

CoU training equips business finance professionals across Australia and New Zealand with the skills to build long-term, trusting relationships, navigate difficult client or customer conversations and look after themselves whilst supporting their clients and colleagues.

Beginning as a research program in 2021, CoU training aimed to upskill trusted advisers to better support the financial and mental wellbeing of their small business owner (SME) clients.  The training was designed by the Business School in collaboration with workplace mental health researchers and industry partners in response to: 1) a growing body of research highlighting the connection between financial distress and poor mental health for SMEs, and 2) prominent accounting and bookkeeping professional bodies reporting on stressed members struggling to respond to, or cope with, distressed SME clients or unsure of what their responsibilities were when it came to duty of care.

CoU is premised on the theory of using key intermediaries to deliver mental health support to difficult-to-reach groups – in this case, SMEs – and encourage them to access professional support. Advisers like accountants and bookkeepers have often been identified as key intermediaries, with SMEs often reaching out to their finance professional for advice or support when financially distressed.

The training was also developed to research the incremental effectiveness of combining a primary prevention strategy (client relationship building training to mitigate financial stress) with the early intervention approach of Mental Health First Aid® in terms of preventing mental health conditions from becoming more serious.

In 2023, backed by two years of encouraging research outcomes and participant and trainer feedback, we are expanding beyond the research program to equip workers across a range of industries in Australia and New Zealand on how to navigate sensitive conversations about mental health and wellbeing.

Pillars of CoU Training


Our client relationship building module is a core part of CoU training. Knowing the skills to build rapport and trust whilst delivering sometimes difficult or sensitive messages to your customers or clients can take you from performing mere transactional services to forging long-term relationships, the backbone of every good business. A large focus of the module is also about setting boundaries with clients, protecting your own wellbeing and learning how to look after yourself whilst looking after others.

Mental Health First Aid for Finance Professionals® (MHFA®)

Standard Mental Health First Aid® (MHFA®) for Financial Professionals is a flagship course created by Mental Health First Aid Australia, a national not-for-profit health promotion training and research charity. MHFA training is delivered by Mental Health First Aid International trained and Licensed Instructors, and equips participants with the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognise and respond to someone experiencing a mental health problem or mental health crisis.

Wellbeing and a Learning Network

Learn techniques to regulate your emotions and care for your wellbeing whilst you support others. Learn about the different organisations and types of mental health support and resources available to individuals, businesses, and organisations. Learn from a growing network of participants sharing their real-life experiences as well as from leading researchers and industry experts sharing their knowledge on the topic of workplace wellbeing and mental health.



Watch Michael’s experience of the Counting on U research program

Bespoke Business Solutions

Custom-designed Counting on U modules are also available, tailored to individual organisations’ needs, built on evidence-based frameworks and in collaboration with Deakin’s team of researchers and implementation scientists. Learn more and get in touch

Mental Health First Aid and MHFA® are registered trademarks of Mental Health First Aid International.