The government’s $2.2 million initiative to improve the mental health literacy for accountants and bookkeepers has kicked off, with one adviser hailing it as one of the best courses on the market.

Professional Development  Jotham Lian  19 February 2021 

Up to 1,000 accountants and bookkeepers are set to benefit from the pilot phase of the Counting on U program that aims to deliver targeted mental health first aid training for small-business advisers.

The Counting on U program, with $2.2 million in funding from the government, will see Deakin University — in collaboration with Beyond Blue, Mental Health First Aid Australia and WorkSafe Victoria — provide structured training to help accountants identify, manage and prevent various mental health conditions with their SME clients.

Members from Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), and the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) will be eligible to undertake the training for free, with a view to train 5,000 advisers by the end of the year.

The launch of the new training program comes as the accounting profession were left to bear the brunt of the pandemic-induced economic fallout, scrambling to help clients access government support and, in some cases, deliver the cold truth of a business’s viability to its owner.

Sarah Lawrance, managing director of her firm Hot Toast, and one of the first few advisers to undertake the training, has sung high praises of the initiative, labelling it as one of the best courses she has completed.

“Just coming off the back of last year, the level of content was spot-on and very timely,” Ms Lawrance told Accountants Daily.

“There was a lot of value in it and it wasn’t just textbook stuff that you walk away from. You learn how to approach clients with the right language around dealing with mental health, how to reframe a conversation, and guide them through the next steps to get the help they need.

“I actually want to see it rolled out to as many practitioners as possible.”

According to Deakin University, participants will learn to identify a range of mental illnesses, implement a variety of preventative strategies, and confidently administer first aid to someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Advisers will also learn specialist communication skills to better explore the needs of their business clients, while also learning how to deliver difficult advice.

“As accountants, we love a good process and we love a good framework, and I think being given those tools now is awesome,” Ms Lawrance said.

“We’re not here to diagnose, and we’re not professionals in the area, but it helps us direct people to the best place so that they can get the help they need.”

Accountants Daily understands the pilot phase of the program for the first 1,000 participants will run until May, before being rolled out to the remaining 4,000 participants between May and December.

Expressions of interest can be placed with the relevant professional body, with places based on a first-come, first-served basis.

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