Jirsch Sutherland takes action on mental health – and urges other professional firms to increase mental health literacy
National insolvency and business recovery firm Jirsch Sutherland has become the first insolvency practice in Australia to commit to having all its Managers, Principals and Partners undertake the Mental Health First Aid Certificate. And on the eve of RUOK Day, Jirsch Sutherland is urging others at the frontline – such as accountants and lawyers – to follow suit.
The Mental Health First Aid Certificate, which provides simple, practical first aid skills for helping people experiencing mental health problems, is just one initiative Jirsch Sutherland is implementing as part of a major mental health and wellbeing program. The firm has also partnered with Beyond Blue to launch a series of seminars for business advisers that will discuss the stresses impacting business owners and directors. The seminars will be held in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
“Our aim is to increase our mental health literacy,” says Bradd Morelli, Jirsch Sutherland’s National Managing Partner. “Because of the nature of our business, we are often at the frontline of owners who are dealing with great trauma; it also means we’re in a position where we can offer support,” says Bradd Morelli, Jirsch Sutherland’s National Managing Partner.
“Mental health issues can both cause financial stress and stem from it. Some common stressors include cash-flow issues and the long hours put in to meet the demands of the business. It’s alarming that almost one-third of small business owners report having high levels of psychological distress1.”
Patrice O’Brien, Beyond Blue’s General Manager Workplace, Partnerships and Engagement, says “many people at the helm of Australia’s 2.26 million small businesses share something in common”.
“Working long hours, cash flow issues, social isolation and balancing work and domestic responsibilities are some of the unique challenges small business owners face,” she explains. “And not surprisingly, these factors can also affect a business owner’s mental health and wellbeing.”
Beyond Blue recently launched its Supporting small business owners to improve their mental health and wellbeing at work guide, which is designed to provide business advisers with practical tips about how to provide support without needing to be trained counsellors or clinicians.
“The role of small business advisers is more than just providing guidance on debt, accounts and assets – it’s about people,” Ms O’Brien says.
“As professionals, small business advisers equip small business owners with the right information so they can run their business successfully. Now they can also play an important role in supporting the mental wellbeing of small business owners and empowering them to look after their own mental health.”
Noticing the signs
Morelli agrees that business advisers, such as accountants and lawyers, are often at the front line.
“The first person to notice changes in behaviour isn’t always a family member. Accountants are often the first port of call when clients are under financial pressure, plus they’ll usually have a clear view of a person’s financial position. They may be the first to notice unusual transactions or other changes that could signal difficulties in a client’s life,” Morelli says.
“When we work with businesses that are in trouble, we can see firsthand how the owners are coping with the associated stress. It’s important to look for signs of stress and encourage clients to seek professional help. Too often people dig themselves into a financial hole and don’t seek help until it’s too late.”
That’s why Jirsch Sutherland’s Managers, Principals and Partners are undertaking the Mental Health First Aid Certificate. “It will provide us with the confidence to help business owners and directors in a practical way. We are the first insolvency practice in Australia to take this committed approach and I hope others will follow our lead,” Morelli adds.
 2018 University of Melbourne report commissioned by Beyond Blue
About Jirsch Sutherland
Established in 1984, Jirsch Sutherland is one of Australia’s leading national independent insolvency specialists. The Jirsch Sutherland team works closely with small and mid-size accounting, finance and legal firms – and their clients – to provide a wide range of expert corporate and personal insolvency services including liquidations, voluntary administrations, receiverships and bankruptcy.
With head offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle and Perth, supported by a network of regional offices, Jirsch Sutherland’s national reach combined with a local presence underpins the company’s ongoing.
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