Johnny Timpson's Blog

Decorative image


Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 takes place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019. The theme this year is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

Body image and self-esteem start in the mind, not in the mirror. They can change the way we understand our value and worth. Healthy body image and self-esteem are a big part of our well-being.

Body image encompasses many different factors and includes how you feel when you see and think about your own body, what you might believe about your own appearance, and how you might feel in your body.

Many people of all ages, genders, and cultures may struggle with body image and have a negative perception of their own body and appearance. With the increased use of technology and more involvement and use of social media platforms, it doesn’t come as a surprise that negative body image is becoming more of a concern across the globe and especially here in the UK. Never have we been more connected than we are today, yet in many respects, such as remote working, never have we been so isolated either.

Thankfully, with appropriate support, signposting and access to help and intervention, it is possible to improve upon negative body image and prevent more severe mental health issues from developing further. The important thing is early identification: when you are aware of poor body image, reach out for the help and support you need to recover.

Mental health campaigns and media coverage can at first glance lead you to conclude that we are experiencing an explosion in mental health issues in the UK. The reality is that the issue has always been there, what has changed and indeed been transformed, is our societal attitude to mental health.

Thanks to these campaigns our mental health awareness is raised, and we are both collectively and individually more confident to bring the inside out, and talk about our mental health as we do our physical health. After all, everybody has it and we need to take care of it, as should we suffer a mental health issue, as with physical health, it’s all too often compounded by a financial health impact.

Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that we need and want to live our lives. But when someone goes through a period of poor mental health, they might find that thinking, feeling, reacting and importantly, decision making becomes difficult or even impossible to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, leaving them incredibly vulnerable.

Mental health problems affect around one in four people* of all ages in any given year. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Experiencing a mental health problem is often upsetting, confusing and frightening – particularly at first. However, in reality, mental health problems are a common human experience, and are often compounded by physical, relationship and financial health problems being experienced. So, what about mental health and financial protection insurance?

There’s a public perception that insurers avoid taking risks, and avoid paying claims. Those of us working in the protection and health sectors of the insurance industry and profession know that this perception is not the reality, so how do we address this?

In my opinion here are some of the aspects we should be concentrating on:

  1. Transparency and demystifying underwriting is key. For example, whilst one in four people are likely to experience a mental health problem, the mental illness disclosure rate at Scottish Widows currently sits at around 12%**. Are people concerned that disclosing a mental health condition will prevent them from getting cover, or that they’ll see an increase to the premiums? We need to openly discuss this and tackle the concerns and perceptions that consumers, journalists and advisers may have. We know that in reality nearly eight in ten** cases will result in standard rates being offered, with a 95%** overall acceptance for life cover.
  2. Signposting to specialists - the findings from the FCA’s July 2017 “Call For Evidence On Access To Insurance” highlighted the benefits of signposting clients with health conditions and/or disabilities to specialist advisers, as they were found able to obtain more appropriate and affordable cover.

As DWP Disability Champion for the insurance industry and profession, I fully support the work on mental health and insurance being progressed by the ABI, this being done in collaboration with highly collaborative industry, consumer group and health charity “Access To Insurance Working Group” who are seeking to address these issues.

Let’s not forget that in addition to supporting clients through the provision of protection cover, insurers are increasingly working in partnership with charities to develop their understanding of conditions as well as their underwriting, customer support and claims services. This is the case with Scottish Widows and our 3 year charity partnership with Mental Health UK (MHUK).

Many of us know someone who has experienced a mental health problem. They can and do happen to people of all ages and from all walks of life. It’s essential that our industry and profession supports policy holders and their families when they are vulnerable and this is why Scottish Widows Care support service sits at the heart of our protection promise. Importantly, all pre-existing conditions are covered by our Care support service, so clients should never feel concerned about disclosing any mental health (or other) conditions they may have experienced.

Find out more about how Scottish Widows Care support service can support your clients’ mental health wellbeing.

The website is a great resource, providing practical advice and support for people experiencing issues with mental health and money.

** Scottish Widows Underwriting Statistics 2017

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