Financial Planning
Reforms impact adviser mental health

Financial advisers must band together to support their peers who are struggling to cope with the immense change occurring in the industry.

Speaking at the AFA National Adviser Conference, Mindstar chief executive Aaron Williams said an increasing number of financial advisers are reaching out to him as they struggle with their mental health.

"I received an email from a financial adviser recently who said he's doing it tough; ASIC doesn't realise what it's doing to advisers, the politicians don't realise, the Royal Commission doesn't realise what it's doing. This is my life's work," he said.

"He'd been depressed for 12 months. Fortunately, he realised he didn't have to maintain macho appearances and keep it to himself. After telling me, he spoke to his family and his GP and he's on his way to feeling much better."

But there are potentially hundreds of advisers out there experiencing bouts of or prolonged periods of mental illness.

Williams said there's a responsibility and opportunity for the advice industry to change the psychology of the industry.

"At the moment it's all about being there for your clients when bad stuff happens ... It should be that your industry is there to help every Australian live a happier, healthier life," he said.

According to recent PwC research, the financial services industry has the highest rate of mental illness with 33% of employees experience a mental health condition. In the small business sector, 44% of SME owners say they are unlikely to discuss how they are feeling.

Further, mental illness is currently costing the Australian economy $28.6 billion a year and suicide is now the leading cause of death among young and middle-aged Australians.

"We all fake it. We fake being great and happy, because that's what we're programmed to do. It's hard to tell if someone is struggling," he said.

Williams previously worked in corporate IT. Off the back of personal mental health struggles, he became a mental health professional. He has worked in hospitals, homeless shelters and schools before founding Mindstar.

In identifying if someone is at risk, Williams told delegates of the red flags to look out for including becoming distant from family or friends; not replying to texts or calls; being angry, irritable or aggressive; signs of increased stress; excessive drinking or drug use; changes to sleep patterns and appetite; and stopping or changing usual activities.

"If you think that nothing is ever going to change, no matter what you do, that's when you're most at risk - keep your eye out for that," Williams said.

He added that intuition is your greatest tool when it comes to identifying signs of mental illness among family, friends and co-workers.

"Trust your gut. If you feel that something just isn't right, ask the question. Your gut is rarely wrong," Williams said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

Read more: MindstarAaron WilliamsAFAASICLifelineRoyal Commissionbeyondblue
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