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‘Concerning’ levels of poor mental health in financial services

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Reporter 7 minute read

The CEO of mental health organisation SuperFriend has said that there are some “concerning statistics” around mental health levels in the financial services industry, encouraging workplaces to implement employee assistance programs.

Speaking to The Adviser sister title Investor Daily, SuperFriend CEO Margo Lydon highlighted figures from the organisation’s recent Indicators of a Thriving Workplace 2017 report.

According to the survey of 5,000 workers, 47 per cent of financial services professionals were experiencing “ongoing stress”, 9 per cent higher than the national average, with 44 per cent of respondents revealing that they have left a job in the industry due to a “poor mental health environment”.

Further, respondents gave the financial services industry a score of 57 out of 100, when the national average was just 55.


Ms Lydon told Investor DailyIn the industry, there are some concerning statistics, particularly the high levels of chronic stress and that’s not a surprise.

The royal commission, long hours, regulatory changes, budget announcements — they all have an impact.”

However, Ms Lydon noted that many in the industry were already working towards a better workplace, with the availability of employee assistance programs (EAPs) in organisations at 19 per cent above the national average.

“We know organisations set KPIs to use EAPs and we love that. I would encourage organisations in financial services to really promote the EAP, getting them in and making them visible and encouraging people to use them,” the CEO said.

Ms Lydon’s comments echo those made recently by Jerome Doraisamy, journalist, lawyer and author of the Wellness Doctrines book series. He told The Adviser’s In Focus podcast this week that professional services employees can suffer from long work hours and that, when coupled with some of the “idiosyncratic personality traits that some of these young working professionals have, whether they’re lawyers or mortgage brokers or advisers, there’s a very strong sense of needing to prove yourself”.


“And so you’re competing with those around you in your cohort. Youre trying to be a perfectionist and do everything at 100 per cent which, of course, is not sustainable,” Mr Doraisamy said.

“I think because these people are operating in an environment whereby perhaps they dont always have that stable, secure income (and there are other life responsibilities that we have, whether it be paying our own mortgage or looking after a family), all of these things just cumulate into a lot of increased pressure.

“And that can really put an enormous amount of strain upon somebody, especially if they dont have the right support mechanisms around them.”

He added: “I think that every single person does experience stress to an extent. It might be healthy because it can be motivating, but theres not a single person in the world who has 100 per cent perfect mental health. We all get stressed, we all get anxious, and its just a matter of degrees as to where we as a society choose to draw the line in the sand as to whats a diagnosable condition or not.

“And so I think there needs to be less of a blurring around this, really ensuring or remembering, certainly for the managers and partners within these organisations, that theyre more cognisant of the fact that every single worker under their employ is a unique individual. They all respond differently to external stimuli, they all have different needs. And therefore what one person may be more resilient about, another person might get a bit more overwhelmed.”

Mr Doraisamy suggested some ways in which colleagues and friends can help identify when someone is suffering from poor mental health and might need support, including asking people how they are on a scale of one to 10.

“If they say, oh, today Im a four or Im a five, that gives you a very clear path through which you can ask a follow-up question and say, ‘Oh, well, whats going on? How come youre only a four or five? Why arent you a seven or an eight?

“And so framing the question in that way is a much more direct way of being able to elicit the information that might give you what it is youre searching for. Because how are you is very vague, its very generic and its a very easy way for somebody to just completely shut off and not engage.

Several players in the mortgage broking industry have been working to improve mental health in the profession, with Tracy Kearey, the director of Brisbane-based Home Loan Connexion, launching a mental health program to support her brokers.

Speaking to The Adviser last year, Ms Kearey said that she was launching the program to “give back” to the industry and provide support to her brokers.

Further, some industry players, including the Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA), are hosting events today (13 September) to mark R U OK? Day, a national day of action dedicated to opening up communication and supporting those struggling with life.

Speaking of its event this morning, which features keynote speakers from beyondblue, and Tony Bradford from the Centre for Corporate Health Pty Ltd, the FBAA said that it wants the industry to “have ​a ​discussion ​about ​mental ​health, ​with ​a ​majority ​of ​brokers ​saying ​they ​feel ​highly ​stressed”.

“​We ​are ​very ​aware ​that ​brokers ​put ​a ​lot ​of ​pressure ​on ​themselves ​to ​chase ​work ​and ​complete ​deals. ​We ​acknowledge ​that ​health, ​and ​in ​particular ​mental ​health, ​is ​an ​increasing ​concern ​in ​the ​community ​and ​a ​key ​issue ​for ​the ​financial ​services ​sector. ​We ​aim ​to ​address ​this ​with ​targeted ​initiatives ​to ​better ​equip ​brokers ​in ​responding ​to ​the ​circumstances ​they ​face,” the association said.

If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, or you’re worried about someone else and feel that urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

beyondblue: 1300 22 4636

[Related: In Focus: Mental health and wellbeing in the financial services sector]

‘Concerning’ levels of poor mental health in financial services
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