The Massachusetts Society of CPAs goes the extra mile for members facing mental health issues and stress. Here are some of its leadership tips and proven tools to help members cope when they need it most.
Around tax time, the stress level among Certified Public Accountants amps up significantly. That is now compounded by a year-long pandemic, and other issues, which are leaving many people feeling overwhelmed. In response, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs has upped efforts to help its members with programs especially geared for these particularly trying times.
Amy Pitter, MSCPA’s president and CEO, is committed to destigmatizing mental health challenges by providing tools and safe spaces for open conversations among members. The efforts dovetail with an increased focus on how to improve diversity and inclusion in the CPA profession, she said.
“People’s authentic selves include any mental health issues they might chronically have, or have at the moment,” she said. “And, as with any diversity issue, you can’t be inclusive if you’re not willing to talk about it.”
Pitter has three tips for association leaders who are looking for ways to help members manage mental health issues:
- Talk about mental health with your members. Associations must provide a safe space for their members to have open, honest—even raw—conversations. Talking about it will help normalize these discussions and remove the stigma.
- Change is hard and comes slowly. COVID-19 has accelerated everything, so it’s OK to pause before you pivot.
- Lead by example. Dealing openly with stress relieves stress, and association leaders must encourage their staff and members to pay attention to their mental health. It’s hard to let go of thinking that working crazy hours is a badge of honor, but the real badge of honor is to face your stress and its repercussions head on.
Pitter points to three tools—among many MSCPA currently has in place—the group is using to help members better cope during an extremely stressful time.
Caregiver Support Group
Recognizing that many members are caring for children, adult parents, family members with disabilities, and more, MSCPA hosts a CaregiverParent-Alliance Support Group—an online roundtable for members to discuss challenges, share resources, and offer advice.
The virtual groups are held during different times of the week, like Tuesday afternoons or Wednesday mornings, to be sensitive to people’s scheduling needs, Pitter said. MSCPA caps the roundtables at 12 to 15 participants to facilitate open conversations.
“People were so appreciative we were taking the lead,” she said. “Everybody is in the same boat, and they learn from each other and support each other.”
Stress Management Resources
MSCPA provides articles to members on how to help combat burnout, manage expectations, prioritize whole body wellness, and reduce stress. The aim is to provide members with unique value—not the same tax articles they could find anywhere else, Pitter said.
The articles are geared toward helping people navigate their business and work lives and focus on themes like diversity, mental health, and wellness. MSCPA supplements the articles with corresponding webinars, which encourages members to look to MSCPA for thought leadership and guidance on particular issues, Pitter said.
MSCPA hosts virtual social events for members, including a beer and cheese tasting and a trivia night, to provide a networking outlet for members and keep them engaged in a relaxed setting. The events used to be in-person, typically at a bar, but the revised online setting still works. CPA member firms assemble teams and compete against one another.
“It’s a real opportunity for people to have fun with their colleagues,” she said. It also helps the firms recapture a sense of office culture they’ve been struggling to regain.
“It’s something we can uniquely offer our members,” she said. “Everybody’s hungry for connection right now.”