The Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) has, in collaboration with Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury, piloted an innovative program called Accidental Counsellor for its members. The pilot program was trialled with brokers and industry representatives at two workshops held in Melbourne and Sydney this week, delivered by a qualified Lifeline trainer who is also an accredited crisis supporter on Lifeline’s 13 11 14 Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention line.

Mortgage Brokers represent the largest frontline force in the mortgage industry and are coming into regular contact with more than half of all home loan customers who have recently taken out a home loan, as well as with colleagues, family and friends, who may be struggling due to mental illness, suicide, domestic violence, financial crisis, serious illness, loss, or other crisis.

Whilst the mortgage broking industry offers a lot of high quality formal training that equips brokers on how to professionally and compliantly write a loan and provide credit assistance, there is little that equips them to deal with mental health issues or other crises being experienced by those they will inevitably come into contact with.

Accidental Counsellor provides training and insights aimed at equipping brokers with the ability and confidence to: recognise when their customers, colleagues or others are struggling or in crisis; to respond in an appropriate way; and to help them take the next steps so they can get the support they need.

“Brokers, in particular, are in a position nearly every day where they are interacting with the public, reviewing personal and financial information, and building relationships of trust. During these meetings a broker might recognise that someone needs help and, with the right training, they might be able to guide that person to seek assistance that can improve their mental health and wellbeing, potentially making a big difference to those that may be vulnerable within our community,” stated MFAA CEO Mike Felton.

“It's important to remember that these skills do not equip the broker to be a counsellor, but instead provide them with the abilities to recognise someone in crisis, respond in an appropriate and compassionate manner in the moment and refer them to appropriate support,” Felton added.

The pilot programs received strong feedback from attendees and, because of this, the MFAA has committed to delivering the program nationally over the next 12 months.

“The feedback I received from attendees tells me that the value of the program is without question, so the MFAA team, in conjunction with Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury, will be developing a national roll-out of this program as part of the MFAA COMMUNITY initiatives. Mental health is a priority issue for the MFAA, and brokers can play a big role in supporting the community with these issues,” he said.

If you already know someone who might require assistance, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury is one of 40 Lifeline centres across Australia, and is accredited by Lifeline Australia. Lifeline Australia is a national charity providing 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services. Nationally, Lifeline provides a 24-hour telephone crisis line (13 11 14), online crisis support chat, a service finder – a free directory of local health and community services, and a mental health resource centre, as well as a range of local community services. As a charity, Lifeline Australia depends on your support to ensure that they have the resources to respond to every single person in need.