- CAs should be alert to the signs that financial stress can impact the mental health of clients
- CAs can provide non-judgemental and supportive advice encouraging the client to seek appropriate professional support
- CAs are under significant pressure and should take steps to manage their own wellbeing
How do Chartered Accountants best respond to difficult conversations? During the COVID-19 pandemic, this question has become a vital one to answer as clients with struggling businesses increasingly rely on a Chartered Accountants' availability and advice.
As trusted advisors, CAs develop strategies to provide the support that their clients need during trying times.
Here are some tips for dealing with clients in financial distress and for your own self-care:
- Recognise that financial stress and mental health problems are linked. Financial stress can be a trigger for as well as an outcome of mental health problems.
- Be alert to the signs that your client might have mental health problems. Mental health is not black and white. It sits on a continuum and can move back and forth between thriving through to mild, moderate and severe mental health problems.
- Have you noticed their appearance, attitude, mood or behaviour has changed significantly?
- Have they become uncharacteristically indecisive?
- Do they appear to be having trouble concentrating or remembering details?
- Have new conflicts arisen in their business or personal relationships?
- Do they appear to be more disorganised than they normally would?
- Listen openly and without judging, asking questions to clarify your understanding of their situation
- Show empathy and support. You don't have to agree with the client to acknowledge their feelings and support them.
- Be respectful
- Be patient
- Give the client time to think and express themselves
- Take any threats seriously.
- Explain that you can't observe confidentiality in this situation
- Contact a local mental health service, crisis team or Lifeline
- Get help from a colleague