Johnny Timpson's Blog

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Caring for mental health wellbeing

In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it, we need to take care of it and should we suffer a mental health issue, 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 for them.

As DWP Disability Champion for the insurance industry and profession, I fully support the work being progressed by the recently established and highly collaborative industry, consumer group health charity “Access To Insurance Working Group” who are seeking to address these issues.

Let’s not forget that in addition to supporting our clients through our protection policies, insurers have teamed up with charities to do some great work, raising awareness and providing support. Working with our charity partner Mental Health UK (MHUK), Scottish Widows as part of LBG has raised over £6 million since January 2017, allowing us to better support those who live with mental health conditions. The fundraising efforts have enabled the charity to launch the UK’s first mental health and money advice service:

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.

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