Q1 How is the growing societal awareness about mental health impacting the insurance industry?
Response from Kathryn Knowles, Managing Director of Cura Financial Services insurance advisers: “The insurance industry is making positive steps in supporting people with mental health issues. It’s not perfect, things could be better, but the key thing is that insurers are now listening. They are listening to the fact that anxiety and stress are part and parcel of the modern world. This is leading many insurers to now offer value added benefits, so that if their existing customers are feeling like they need help, they can access expert medical services, without needing to make a claim. This can be specialist nurses, second medical opinion services, access to remote GPs, counselling and more.”
Response from Kerry Nelson, Managing Director, Nexus Independent Financial Advisers: “I do believe there has been a strong move in society to address and tackle mental health, however I do believe the work place lags behind this, and have seen the sad reality of work place bullying culminating in someone trying to take their own life.
“From my understanding this culture in this particular high street supermarket has not changed, where staff are able to use job titles as something of a platform to behave badly and treat staff appallingly. It is almost as if they use this as a ‘power trip’. So whilst there is a great move in the media to call out behaviours, support those who struggle, the reality is this is yet to translate to a change in culture more specifically in the work place.
“Sometimes it is easy to #hastag something. The need is for a change of behaviour and attitude, to really have an impact on the outcome of real mental health issues. We all have a responsibility to really help those who are truly suffering, to discourage poor attitude and brand culture, and to stand up for those who are unable to do so for themselves. Perhaps also the political back drop has infused a hatred vented through the instant impact of social media.
“There are still great inroads to be made to manage the worlds of social media and the dreadful impact this can have in a heartbeat. And how this overspills into the day to day world, that such behaviours are almost seen as acceptable. Social media platforms, companies, and the modern culture has to adapt and manage such change.”
Q2 How is this growing awareness specifically affecting advisers?
Response from Kathryn Knowles, Managing Director of Cura Financial Services insurance advisers: “People with mental health conditions that approach an adviser, need to be shown respect. It takes a lot of guts to open up about your mental health to a stranger, one that you may think is going to judge you or turn you down (given the amount of negative press we see hardly surprising!). It’s important that any conversation is handled with care and empathy. You need to show the client that you are listening to them, that you understand what they are saying and that you are going to support them to the best of your abilities.”
Response from Kerry Nelson, Managing Director, Nexus Independent Financial Advisers: “I see the need for a shift in attitudes, this is a tough industry, where vulnerabilities have little room for airing. That said individuals and organisations are bringing this to the forefront of their culture and imbedding this in behaviours and attitude, it is a journey we as an industry need to take and embrace.”
Q3 What insurance products are particularly relevant in terms of mental health and why? How do they help the customer?
Response from Kathryn Knowles, Managing Director of Cura Financial Services insurance advisers: “Any protection policy is good for someone with mental health, they are there to protect. Life insurance means that someone knows that their family will be ok financially if they die. Critical illness cover means that someone can adapt their way of living if they become critically ill. Income protection means that someone can rest assured that if you are too ill to work, they can keep their home, pay the bills, feed their children. They all bring something different to the table and it's difficult to say which one is best, as everyone has their own individual needs.”
Response from Kerry Nelson, Managing Director, Nexus Independent Financial Advisers: “This is where helplines immediately should available for people to take advice, have someone to talk to who is a professional and qualified.
“This could be rolled out to work place solutions. Some people still find it difficult to talk to immediate colleagues, through either embarrassment or because of the culture. Solutions that provide individuals with someone to call on - and then offer solutions to address their issues. This should also include follows ups and calls to action as this is where people, can slip through the net and the onus is left on the individual. People with mental health issues are in a vulnerable situation and need their hand holding, need guidance, and care.”
Q4 How can the insurance industry and intermediaries have a greater role in the prevention of mental ill-health?
Response from Kathryn Knowles, Managing Director of Cura Financial Services insurance advisers: “Everyone should take responsibility. Intermediaries can talk about group risk more, early intervention services, value added benefits. All of which offer fantastic support for those with mental health conditions.
“Insurers could do more when it comes to communicating their decisions to clients. I speak regularly about how I was told I couldn’t have insurance many years ago, mainly because of anxiety issues that I had. I knew full well what that meant. There I was, the insurer was effectively saying 'we’re not insuring you because we think you are going to kill yourself', a simple communication saying you’re declined. No offer of support or help.”
Response from Kerry Nelson, Managing Director, Nexus Independent Financial Advisers: “By providing solutions that follow through with support and are not just a sticking plaster as an immediate reaction. Provide services that are imbedded in policy, change behaviours and educate employees and as importantly, management. Everyone has a responsibility to learn new behaviours.”
Q5 What more can the insurance industry do to help people with mental health issues? E.g. develop new products, relax underwriting rules, provide better technology etc.
Response from Kathryn Knowles, Managing Director of Cura Financial Services insurance advisers: ”Have a more human process when they decline someone for cover. Direct them to a broker that can help them get the cover that they need. Change application questions. ‘When did you last experience anxiety?’ Well as someone with anxiety I can say it was this morning because my kids were running around naked with paint on them, while I was trying to get into work without becoming an impromptu Picasso. Is that because I have anxiety, or is that ’normal’ because I am a working mum? How do you then define what is anxiety that the insurer needs to know about and a natural reaction to being alive.”
Response from Kerry Nelson, Managing Director, Nexus Independent Financial Advisers: “It is a combination, there is a need for solutions that follow through and not relying on the person suffering to take action, as often they are paralysed to do anything. Claims need to be less intrusive, support services triggered earlier and with greater ease, without so much red tape.”