Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), will now provide mental health training to accountants from regional areas in an effort to help them deal with clients in crisis.
With the drought crisis crippling the livelihood of many of our nation’s farmers, accountants in rural regions are often the first to spot a client is struggling under the multiple factors of financial distress. CA ANZ hopes by providing accountants with training to recognise mental distress, they will be able to better assist their clients.
CA ANZ Segment Support Manager, Catherine Kennedy, said the training is helping rural accountants who may find themselves in their role, reaching beyond just advising on finances.
“The clear message we’ve had from our members, particularly in regional and rural areas, is that there is a clear link between financial distress and mental health issues,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s in drought-affected areas or others, farmers are facing challenges and accountants are seeing people in financial distress and are often the first port of call,” Kennedy said.
While Kennedy was clear that accountants aren’t psychologists, she said the line was blurring as clients often visited their accountant seeking advice.
“They’re not expected to give counselling, but they need guidance on how to have conversations and where they can seek further help.”
Rural Queensland practitioner, Andy Freeman, said he didn’t expect the role of being an accountant in a regional town would involve providing a large amount of emotional support for clients.
“We see our clients in their most difficult times; I have to wear many hats. Particularly through the periods of drought, we see clients at the ragged edge of their financial situations,” Freeman said.
“We strive to be trusted advisers and being here in a rural town, there is a different sort of relationship than I previously experienced working as a metro accountant.
“Being a rural accountant means we are one point of contact for a broader range of queries and life experiences,” he said.
If you or someone you know is feeling mental distress please seek help. Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.