Sarah Forman (left), Vicki Stylianou, Lydia Rahardjo and Julia Newbould

The cumulative effect of change can be just as devastating as cataclysmic events, which means licensees and employers need to be adequately prepared with mental health resources according to a panel.

At the Professional Planner Licensee Summit in Katoomba, Aware Super advice group executive Sarah Forman noted the impact the Hayne royal commission and the Covid-19 pandemic had on mental health. Ultimately, however, Forma believes mental health struggles build up over time.

“The cumulative effect of change has an equal impact as one big explosive event,” she said. “In financial advice there’s uncertainty, job insecurity and longevity in the career they’ve been doing for a period of time.”

Due to the scrutiny on the industry, Forman said advisers don’t have the confidence to stand at a BBQ and disclosure their profession any more.

In financial services there is still a stigma attached to accessing mental health services.

Don’t wait to act

Lydia Rahardjo, a registered psychologist and senior consultant at corporate mental healthcare provider Converge International, said the firm receives upwards of 5,000 calls per month across all industries to access an Employment Assistance Program (EAP) .

She said employers should not wait for a catalyst to have mental health facilities in place to support staff.

“Do not wait until an employee needs an EAP and some help with their mental health concerns. We want to take a proactive approach to preventative methods.”

Not only can EAPs apply to the staff member, but for their families as well.

“About eight per cent of the EAP calls we receive are actually coming from a family member,” she said.

Warning signs

Forman said Aware Super is constantly trying to improve upon creating healthy work habits and ensuring the wellbeing of clients, as well as looking after the psychological wellbeing of clients and the advisers.

She pointed to the steps workers in the organisation are trained to identify.

“It’s as simple as looking for mood swings, when someone’s behaviour is not normal, and unexpected variations of behaviour and performance.”

Forman said sustaining a high level of connectedness is necessary to maintain a strong business culture.

“Covid-19 and working from home [meant] your ability to check-in and see how people are going was really challenged.”

The major associations have offered mental health services for members, but uptake has been low and well below expectations. Despite this, research found advisers relied on the support of their practice colleagues more than any other part of their professional support network during the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you or anyone you know needs mental health support contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636.

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