Set up by Gavin Larkin to raise awareness on depression, anxiety and wider mental health issues, the national suicide-prevention initiative R U OK? Day takes place on 14 September.
As part of its support of the initiative and in response to a belief that mental health challenges are becoming increasingly prevalent in the broking industry, the Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA) is hosting a breakfast and morning tea event at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre on Thursday.
The morning event will see around 150 members of the industry discuss mental health challenges and understand more on how to cope and respond to mental health issues.
The event will include talks from Tony McManus, ambassador from depression and anxiety education charity beyondblue, as well as a session from Pedro Diaz, founder of the Workplace Mental Health Institute.
According to FBAA executive director Peter White, the event has been received very positively, telling The Adviser that those registered for the event “come from all across the industry; both [FBAA] members and non-members, plus employees and employers from within the industry who want to know and understand more on mental health issues”.
Mr White said: “Statistically, in Australia, 45 per cent of people will suffer a mental health episode in their life; one in five [is] suffering a mental health disorder right now, and every eight hours someone in Australia commits suicide from a mental health disorder.
“We have over 26,000 brokers doing consumer loans (not just home loans) in Australia, according to ASIC, and we are a very, very, highly stressed industry, with people working very long hours. So, we all need to help take care of each other with this.”
He continued: “To address all areas of this real problem that we basically all face (if you don't suffer from a mental health disorder, you will know someone who is), we have specialist speakers presenting on Thursday… and we will also be re-enforcing how to positively focus on your business and be successful.
“This, in turn, will stimulate a better mental health attitude and help relieve any possible financial stress or anxieties.”
Mr White concluded: “It’s a serious subject and one we must all take very seriously. And it can be as simply as checking up on a friend and having that conversation: How are you going? R U OK?”
‘It’s completely normal not be OK’
Ahead of his talk at the FBAA event, Pedro Diaz told The Adviser that “as a mental health advocate, clinician, and having been through [his] own journey with recovery from bipolar disorder, and in [his] role as CEO with the Workplace Mental Health Institute, [he felt] a personal and professional responsibility to speak out about workplace mental health”.
Mr Diaz said: “Especially considering that depression is linked to suicide, this is, to me, a vital topic we must address."
According to the founder of the Workplace Mental Health Institute, depression in the finance sector is at “a rampant and catastrophic” 33 per cent, and 20 per cent of all suicides are reportedly work related.
As such, Mr Diaz emphasised that understanding and acknowledging mental health was a vital first step in reducing these numbers.
“I want people to know that it is completely normal not to be OK,” Mr Diaz said.
“When we ask someone ‘R U OK?’, we need to follow up the question with the comment: ‘Because it’s OK not to be OK’."
Mr Diaz concluded: “Asking the question is good, but unless the person really feels comfortable talking about what is going on in their life, they are unlikely to let you know they are not OK.
“That’s why I am strongly encouraging everyone on R U OK? Day to let the person you are asking know that it’s OK not to be OK. In fact, it is completely normal not to be OK. By doing this, you are letting the person know that you are expecting them to tell you how it really is, rather than [just] telling you things are OK.”
He suggested that if someone responds that they are not OK, “you need to be fully present and ensure the person doesn’t feel judged.”
More information on having a conversation on mental health issues is available from the R U OK? Day website.
If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else, and feel urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below.