Stress: know where to turn


DO YOU FEEL stressed? Barely able to cope? Is your work-life balance poor? Do you have money issues? And do you sometimes turn to drink and drugs as a way of coping with these problems, or even contemplate suicidal thoughts?

If so, you are far from alone. Our research shows that chartered accountants seem to be suffering from more problems, more acutely than ever before and at a younger age. The question is why?

Most of the reasons are relatively easy to identify. Family life is ever more complicated for many, with a large number of accountants juggling the needs of two families following divorce. Professional life is also an issue; accountants work longer hours and are under greater pressure than even just a few years ago.

For some, the recession has had a definite impact. Their job may be under threat, they may have undergone redundancy or their business may have folded. Even if they have stayed in work, they may have found themselves financially overcommitted to a degree that is causing sleepless nights. For the retired, falling pension returns and forthcoming reductions in benefit may make a bearable standard of living difficult to attain.

Another issue is health, both physical and mental. An accountant’s spouse or a family member may suddenly fall ill and need care, or they may become ill themselves. 

The results of all these pressures are worrying. For example, female accountants are three times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts in other professions.

Against this backdrop, it is not always easy to ask for help. While it is not the male bastion that it once was, accountancy is still a relatively macho environment, where putting your hand in the air and stating that you are finding it difficult to cope is not an easy thing to do.

But help is available that is confidential, free and non-judgemental. CABA was formed nearly 125 years ago as a benevolent association in the grand Victorian model. For almost all of this time, the thrust of its activities have been based on ensuring the financial wellbeing of older accountants and their dependants who, for various reasons, have fallen on hard times.

However, within the last few years, it has become obvious to us that many younger accountants, often in their 30s and 40s, are suffering from a much wider range of issues. So we have recruited a team of ten people over the last year to provide help with tackling these problems. Areas of advice that we are now equipped to tackle include benefits, support for carers and how to access services in your local area. We use a holistic assessment process that looks at each individual in a rounded way. Consideration is given to the client’s physical and emotional wellbeing as well as their quality of life, financial circumstances and accommodation.

As you may imagine, some of the people that come to us are in heartbreaking circumstances and require a large amount of professional help over a long period of time, but in many instances the accountants who we speak to simply need a sympathetic ear and some general advice. They need to know they are not alone.

So, if you feel as though work or home life is becoming too tough, remember that you are in the same situation as many other accountants. And there is somewhere that you can turn for help.

Kath Haines is chief executive of CABA


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