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Mental Health Challenges for Accountants By Mark Holton on Nov 5, 2021

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Everyone’s struggling! Anyone who thinks the last 18 months has been a picnic really has to look at their own self-awareness and wonder why… As accountants and advisers, you are dealing with your clients on a day-to-day basis that are struggling to pay rent, pay their staff, pay their suppliers and to literally keep the doors open. And with the extra workload and compliance on Accountants to help their clients, your own health and wellbeing may have taken a back seat.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Peter Annis-Brown. Peter is a qualified Mental Health Educator and Master Mental Health First Aid instructor who conducts workshops, training, and courses throughout Australia to leaders, businesses and organisations looking to increase the overall health and wellbeing of themselves and their teams.

As a Mental Health Educator and practitioner, Peter is seeing two distinct camps at the moment. Those people and businesses that are struggling because the ongoing lockdowns are impacting on the delivery and demand for their work. In the other camp (which I see Accountants) they are struggling because they are overwhelmed with the amount of work they are being asked to do to support those businesses that are needing government and other support to try and stay open.

In his work, Peter talks about “two selfs”, self-awareness and self-care. If you can realise when you are stressed, anxious or in a depressed mood, and you also know some of the triggers that put you there, you can implement strategies and ways to stop you getting too low and becoming chronically unwell and developing a mental health illness.

Peter mentioned to me the two most common questions he gets asked when running courses and educating people being, “what are the signs and symptoms that are present to look out for?” And “how long do you need to be feeling down for?”

In answering these questions, Peter advises firstly that only a recognised professional (GP or Psychiatrist) can diagnose a mental illness and that he is not one of these, but you can follow the following checklist that looks at changes in behaviour and what to look out for.

Physical Signs and Symptoms

  • Pounding heart, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, blushing.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing and shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, headache, sweating, tingling and numbness.
  • Choking, dry mouth, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Muscle aches and pains (especially neck, shoulders and back), restlessness, tremors and shaking.

Psychological Signs & Symptoms

  • Mind racing or going blank.
  • Decreased concentration and memory.
  • Indecisiveness.Confusion.Vivid dreams.
  • Worry (about past and future events).


  • Avoidance of situations.
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviour.
  • Distress in social situations.
  • Sleep disturbance.
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs

For people that think they might be depressed Peter provides the following self-check of the signs and symptoms that might be present. He further advises that while one or a few of these signs and symptoms are completely normal, if a person has a depressive disorder, they will have five or more of these symptoms (including at least one of the first two) nearly every day for at least two weeks.

  • A depressed mood.
  • Loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable.
  • Lack of energy and tiredness.
  • Feeling worthless or feeling guilty when they are not really at fault.
  • Thinking about death a lot or of suicide.
  • Difficulty concentrating or being able to make decisions.
  • Moving more slowly or sometimes becoming agitated and unable to settle.
  • Have sleep disturbances such as not enough or too much sleep.
  • Loss of interest in food or sometimes eating too much. Changes in eating habits may lead to either weight loss or weight gain.

Finally, Peter advises that with treatment, just like physical illness or injury, many people can improve and control their anxiety and depression. With self-awareness to seek early intervention, self-care and support, many people learn to manage and even recover from many mental illnesses.

So how is your self-awareness? Are you looking after yourself and doing your own self-care so you can be at the top of your game? Not only for yourself but also your family and the clients you care and look after.

You can contact Peter at [email protected] to explore how he may be able to help your firm.

One of the sessions we are running at our Young Guns Workshop in February 2022 is Mental Health Insights and Strategies for Accountants. You can view the full program and register here.


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