Brokers have been encouraged to focus on mental health for this year’s R U OK? Day, as concerns have risen through the ongoing lockdowns.
Thursday (9 September) marks R U OK? Day, an annual day focused on raising awareness and normalising conversations around mental health.
Suicide prevention charity R U OK? reported that thousands of events are set to be hosted across the country on Thursday, to be hosted by social and sports clubs, community groups, workplaces, schools and suicide prevention networks. There are 25 per cent more registered community events taking place this year than in 2020.
The charity has also reported a surge in demand for tools on how to talk about mental health through the lockdowns, with a 32 per cent rise in resource downloads from its website compared to the same period last year.
R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton commented the day is a reminder to think about how other people are really going and to make conversation.
“In a time when so many of us are feeling plagued by the pandemic, we want to remind and reassure Australians that there is something we can all do to support those in our world and as those closest to them we are often in a position to do so,” Ms Newton said.
“Don’t wait until someone is visibly distressed or in crisis before you ask. If you ask them in a genuine way, your support can make a difference whatever they are facing.”
The organisation has also launched new research, finding that 31 per cent of Australians lack confidence or are unsure on how to have a conversation with someone who is not okay – while 68 per cent ranked themselves as confident.
The majority (72 per cent) said they were confident they could recognise the signs that someone might be struggling with life.
Women were more confident that they could see the signs (78 per cent), than men (66 per cent).
Most respondents (83 per cent) reported they had taken action in the last month to see how someone was doing – including asking face to face, listening to someone talk about their problems, and referring anyone who was troubled to a support service, with most referring to GPs and helplines.
Afterwards, the majority (80 per cent) of those people did follow up with the person to see how they felt.
When asked the question themselves, 17 per cent said they were not okay.
The Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA) will be hosting an R U OK? Day live stream event from 10:30am to 2pm, with Minister for Health Greg Hunt to make an address.
The online event, run in partnership with wellness sponsor Suncorp, is open to all brokers, including non-FBAA members.
Other speakers include Mortgage Ezy general manager Joanna James, former Prospa head of industry and partnerships Alex Brgudac, R U OK? Day ambassador Jo Hassan and life coach Ash Playsted.
The sessions include focuses on awareness, interacting with others and keys to addressing mental health issues.
NextGen.Net head of broker partnerships Renee Blethyn will MC the event.
FBAA managing director Peter White has called the past few years arguably the most traumatic time brokers have experienced, first with the banking royal commission and then the COVID pandemic.
For him, a “healthy industry is only obtained through healthy people”.
“I understand that I have been speaking about mental health for a long time but there is a reason, that is because I talk to brokers across Australia everyday and I am aware of what they are going through and how it affects so many people,” Mr White said.
“Knowing how to start the conversation and notice when someone is in need is the goal of this important event and we hope brokers will take a few hours out of their day to participate.”
Previously, Mr White has spoken on seeing colleagues with anxiety and depression – and how the discourse around mental health has turned from taboo to commonplace in the broking industry.
Meanwhile Choice Aggregation Services will be a funding partner for the day, while hosting a virtual event in the morning and some in-person events across South Australia and Western Australia.
Choice’s virtual even will be open to members, their families and lender partners.
As a funding partner, the aggregator will match donations from its members on a dollar-for-dollar basis over the day. It has been a funding partner for the initiative since 2019.
Mental health practitioner Ray Good will be a guest speaker for the Choice virtual event, providing tips on managing mental health issues.
Choice CEO Stephen Moore commented R U Ok? Day is “especially important” to the aggregator this year.
“Our brokers have been supporting clients feeling the mental pressure of lockdowns, especially throughout Victoria and New South Wales,” Mr Moore said.
“The financial journey can be an anxious one for some people and when you combine that with many of them being in hardship through COVID-19, being isolated from friends and loved ones, the anxiety is compounded. So brokers have seen the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of the community.”
He also added brokers should be encouraged to “take stock” of how they’re coping.
“Brokers are people, first and foremost, experiencing the same feelings as anyone else in the community: detachment, loneliness and more,” Mr Moore said.
“Added to that, brokers have just been through an extraordinary period of activity where property markets have heated up and customers have been looking to leverage record-low interest rates. Customers have also been using the time at home to reflect on their financial commitments during COVID-19 and that’s spawned a huge increase in refinancing and repricing activities.
“Brokers have been working extremely long hours to put their customers first.”
If you are suffering from abuse, depression or suicidal thoughts – or you’re worried about someone else – and feel that professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or one of the 24/7 crisis agencies below:
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
If you are concerned for your immediate safety or the safety of others, call Triple Zero (000).
Sarah Simpkins is the news editor across Mortgage Business and The Adviser.
Previously, she reported on banking, financial services and wealth management for InvestorDaily and ifa.
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