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Program to assist in workplace mental health

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
Program To Assist In Workplace Mental Health

A pilot program has been announced that aims to support the mental health of Australian workers.

“Post-pandemic pressure” was said to be a key factor in this announcement, as the Small Business and Mental Health – Through the Pandemic report by the Treasury revealed that 22 per cent of small-business owners have been diagnosed with mental ill health.

Deakin University has reacted to this news by expanding its Counting on U (CoU) program. Initially started to support the financial and mental health of small-business owners, now CoU is being pushed to all client-facing employees in Australia and New Zealand to promote healthy mental health and wellbeing through conversation.


“We have also adapted the program for the post-pandemic business environment, in response to current issues like the economic downturn, supply chain disruptions, cost-of-living concerns and inflation,” said CoU co-founder and Deakin Business School Professor of Accounting George Tanewski.

“We know small-business owners in particular are feeling the heat financially, and it’s affecting their mental health. But across the board, enhancing workforce mental health and wellbeing is one of the biggest trends for businesses in 2023.”

Fellow co-founder and Deakin Business School Professor of Management Andrew Noblet said that the CoU program is important to help relieve stigma and encourage mental health conversations.

“Many can still feel uneasy about raising concerns for fear of saying the wrong things, and some finance professionals also argue that mental health conversations are not part of their roles,” Professor Noblet said.

“Programs like Counting on U are not about training participants to become counsellors; it is about knowing how to support an emotionally distressed person and when to encourage them to seek professional support.”

He continued: “When business advisers are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills, they not only feel more confident about having difficult conversations with clients experiencing financial and emotional distress – issues that we know go hand-in-hand – but it also provides the opportunity to form stronger, more trusting and longer-term client relationships.”

According to Deakin University, participants of CoU are seeing positive results in their workforce. One such client is IFM Securities director Lionel Rodrigues, who said mental health awareness is extremely important.

“Not only am I more confident in approaching a conversation about my clients’ or colleagues’ mental health; I also have a heightened sense of awareness about the negative impacts of undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions,” Mr Rodrigues explained.

“What I have come to truly appreciate from the Counting on U program is that mental health conditions are much more pervasive in the community than I previously thought. I learned how to recognise the signs and symptoms of these conditions and how to refer the person to the relevant health professional for treatment.”

For more information on the Counting on U program, click here.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.