Success From Depression
A CA wins his fight to overcome 
career setbacks

CA Magazine, Jan-Feb 1998

Robert Sealey, isn't getting rich from his practice of 50 or so clients, but he is making a living. And that, says the North York, ON chartered accountant, is an achievement in itself. Sealey has long suffered from a depressive illness that dashed his hopes of becoming a partner with a major accounting firm.

Sealey is succeeding in part by offering a service he believes he's invented. Though its name may cause cynics to sneer, he's proud of his "mental accounting" practice.

"This is a new field and I am breaking new ground with it," says Sealey, 47, from his office which is attached to his home. "I am a general practitioner, but for 20% of my clients, I include the mental accounting aspect where I help them deal with the psychology of managing their money while they are having episodes of depressive illness. Many say, 'How can an accountant understand this illness? My doctor doesn't understand it.' "

Sealey, who has suffered from a bipolar mood disorder since he was 17, has sought out depressive clients over the years. "They are good people who may be making bad financial decisions while in the midst of their illness," he says.

Sealey, who is married with two children, obtained his CA designation in 1976 with Johnson, Stewart, Bourne, Brown & Co. He joined the special services department of Price Waterhouse in 1980. "I was really hoping to advance my career with Price Waterhouse," he recalls. "I thought, finally, I am with an excellent firm."

But Sealey's depressive illness prevented him from realizing his dreams. "Unknown to me at that time, I had this mood disorder," he says. "I had relationship problems with clients and colleagues because I was anxious and angry. I didn't know this was involuntary. I had some bad reviews even though I was doing a lot of good work."

Downsizing forced Sealey from Price Waterhouse in 1982. After a spell with another firm as a fraud investigator, he launched his own practice in 1983. All went well, until 1994.

"I became completely depressed," he says. "My medications didn't help. Then I read how depression is treated in Europe. I began taking the herbal medication ginkgo [or "gingko"] biloba. That consistently helped me feel better, for the first time in 30 years."

As a "mental accounting" practitioner, Sealey has written for Canadian MoneySaver magazine and authored two books on depression.

As an accountant working alone, he launched NICA - the Network of Independent Chartered Accountants, [a network that offers support to local CAs in the GTA]. "I told all the members that I have this illness." he says. "When I am not feeling well, I can call them for help."

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