Counting on U Research Hub

Our Research Activities
Research Project: Protecting the mental health of SME owners through small business advisers
(2020 – 2023)

In 2020, the CoU team won funding from various industry partners to develop a new training-based mental health intervention aimed at upskilling 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.

The training was 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.

We were particularly interested in researching 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.

The research project consisted of the following key phases: training design, participant recruitment, training roll-out and data collection. Training roll-out commenced in February 2021 to November 2022, delivered to over 3000 participants and consisting of a client relationship building module, Standard Mental Health First Aid® for Finance Professionals course, and two booster sessions. Longitudinal data collection via surveys and interviews commenced in February 2021 and ended in September 2023.

Research Findings to Date

Over the course of two years, we tracked the efficacy of the program’s content whilst also evaluating program delivery.


Business advisors registered across Australia and N Z


Training sessions delivered to over 3000 participants in 2021-2022


1:1 coaching sessions delivered over late 2022 and early 2023

In our analyses of pre and post-training outcomes, participants reported promising results:

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

Further research findings will be released in 2024 at the conclusion of our longitudinal data collection.