Poor financial health can be a major cause of stress and anxiety for your Clients and this can lead to poor mental health (and the other way around). Katie Turner, MSc, Registered Psychologist, has shared warning signs you should be aware of, ways to open a conversation and insights into when to connect with professional and other resources below.

Recognize the signs of mental health issues

Here are some signs to watch out for:

Change in appearance: A typically clean and well-dressed Client is now wearing baggy or dirty clothing

Significant change in normal behaviour: A typically upbeat Client is now sad or easily irritated.

Changes in interaction style: Not attending appointments, not returning phones calls or avoiding discussions with you.

Unusual displays of emotion/erraticism: Outbursts of anger, sudden high-risk financial decisions or large spending.

Lack of clarity in thought: Unable to communicate effectively.

Excessive fear or worry: Uncharacteristic suspiciousness.

Start a conversation about mental health

Starting a conversation about a person’s mental health requires tact, empathy and compassion. Use the acronym OARS.

O – Observe

Start the discussion about what you’re observing. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions by offering advice or a solution. Start by asking open-ended questions. Check in by sharing your concerns about the behaviour you’re seeing.

A – Ask

Patiently ask your Client questions and listen to what they’re telling you without judgment. Keep the lines of communication open.

R – Refer

Choose to direct them to appropriate resources. LuminoHealth.ca, for example, where they can find mental health professionals, resources and relevant articles. Learn more in the Know when to direct them to additional resources section below.

S – Support

Check in on them. Let them know you care and remind them of the resources available to them.

“The value of an advisor is not the ability to avoid difficult conversations. It is their ability to open and facilitate those conversations skillfully.”

Adam Wiseman, Lead Consultant, Quality Mental Health Interventions (QMHI)

Know when to direct them toward additional resources

It’s important to recognize that there are many emotionally charged issues that your Clients face, and realistically, advisors are not typically trained to deal with all of them. An indication is when you’re having conversations that feel more like therapy sessions than about their financial well-being. Consider your own comfort level with the conversation. If you’re uncomfortable, direct them towards additional resources. Sharing mental health resources, and normalizing the discussion as part of your practice, will make the process natural for you and your Clients. And the more comfortable you are with de-stigmatizing mental health challenges, the easier these conversations will be.

When the conversation goes beyond financial advice

Source: Recreated with information from Michael Kitces, kitces.com

Practice empathetic communication when difficult conversations come up, but also be clear about your boundaries and your role. You don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) your Client’s therapist.

Communication example:

“That sounds really hard. It sounds like you have been feeling (reflect the feeling you are noticing). Thank you for sharing this with me. Do you have anyone that you can talk to? It might also be helpful to talk with a therapist or other mental health professional. I can direct you to some resources.”

Finally, know when to take immediate action

If you notice an increase in symptoms or severity, don’t wait.

If there’s a concern about safety:

  • Ask open-ended questions to statements that raise concerns. People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts will rarely express these thoughts directly, but are more likely to say things like “I don’t see the point anymore” or “I won’t be here anyway.” They may begin to take steps to giving away possessions and making plans for their estate.
  • Practice empathetic communication.
  • Take any threats or warnings seriously. Explain to your Client that these can’t be kept confidential.
  • Express concern from a genuine place and work with your Clients to help connect them to resources.
  • If necessary, offer to contact an authorized third-party, such as your Client’s trusted contact person.
  • If they say they’re safe, and can commit to keeping themselves safe, you can ask permission to follow up with them directly. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Other helpful resources include the following:
  • Contact the Canadian Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 or 1-866-277-3553 (Quebec residents)
  • Find local support through the Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Find a mental health professional through Lumino Health

This is a resource to help advisors recognize the signs and effects of mental health issues and to interact with and support your Clients suffering from mental health issues. This guidance is not intended to enable advisors to diagnose or treat mental health issues, but it can help to identify a potential mental health crisis and have sensitive conversations with your Clients. Advisors should encourage your Clients who may have mental health issues to seek support or treatment from appropriately qualified mental health professionals.

This commentary contains information in summary form for your convenience, published by SLGI Asset Management Inc. Although this commentary has been prepared from sources believed to be reliable, SLGI Asset Management Inc. cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness and is intended to provide you with general information and should not be construed as providing specific individual financial, investment, tax, or legal advice. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the opinions of SLGI Asset Management Inc. Please note, any future or forward looking statements contained in this document are speculative in nature and cannot be relied upon. There is no guarantee that these events will occur or in the manner speculated. Please speak with your professional advisors before acting on any information contained in this document.