Mental health during a pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has brought physical health to the fore – we are social distancing, improving hygiene practices both at work and at home, and millions of us have now downloaded the COVIDsafe app. These measures are extremely important and will help save the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our community.

It is also clear as the pandemic continues into its fourth month that we must also consider and address the psychological impacts.

Many of us have been physically isolated from family and friends, and over 800,000 Australians have lost their job since March. This has undoubtedly caused significant stress during a time when less support services are available.

Even during normal circumstances, insolvency professionals and their staff often find themselves working with people when they are stressed and vulnerable. For most people, personal insolvency is an unwanted and unpleasant experience.

Insolvency professionals, many of whom are business owners themselves, are not immune to these stresses. During the COVID-19 crisis registered practitioners and their staff may have faced a sudden reduction in their own income.

When these factors are combined, it’s clear that it has never been more important to consider and act on the mental health challenges facing us all.

Insolvency Mental Health Awareness Program

To support the mental health of insolvency professionals, AFSA partnered with ASIC and ARITA in 2018 to launch the Insolvency Mental Health Awareness Program. The program was developed in conjunction with Mental Health First Aid Australia and consists of a 90-minute session with a mental health expert and an e-learning package.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we have added additional resources to the program. These new factsheets, which you can access free of charge, discuss how to handle difficult interactions and threats of self-harm.

The new resources also include two factsheets on Mental Health First Aid, which explain how leaders can support their staff with mental health problems. The Mental Health First Aid factsheets cover important topics, such as:

  • How to identify someone who may be experiencing a mental illness
  • What information and support you should provide
  • How to speak to someone if you are concerned about their mental health
  • What adjustments you should consider making
  • What you should avoid doing
  • When you should be concerned and what action you should take – for example if someone is suicidal

The impact of COVID-19 has been wide-reaching, and the pandemic’s effect on the mental health of Australians may linger for many years. I encourage you to take the time to review these new resources, so you are better able to support your clients, your staff, and of course, yourself.

You can find AFSA’s free resources, and enrol in the Insolvency Mental Health Awareness Program (for a small fee), at afsa.gov.au/mentalhealth. And I encourage you to provide your feedback on the Insolvency Mental Health Awareness Program resources by emailing us at IMHAPfeedback [at] afsa.gov.au.