According to Mind, the mental health charity, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. Yet as Carl Jung said, “In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” Mental health problems could affect any of us…
Financial services is a stressful environment and it is likely that all of us will have experienced or know someone who has experienced mental health problems. Awareness of mental health has increased hugely in the last few years but life insurers are still seen to be lagging behind in terms of how they assess mental health issues and in particular how they view it in the longer term. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests many people are reluctant to contact mainstream insurers because they feel uncomfortable talking about problems that may be far in the past or which they feel will not be properly understood.
As a result, whilst many people are getting help for conditions that in the past they would have just tried to ignore, some may also be getting a label that they worry will mean they are treated differently by insurers. As an industry, we should be encouraging them to get the help they need not discouraging them.
The discussion about mental health has been helped significantly by media figures who have been brave enough to talk about their past battles. What may also have helped is greater awareness of the stresses created by modern life as well as the recognition that western medicine is arguably more effective when treating acute physical problems rather than chronic problems or mental health issues. Part of the journey towards a more open and frank discussion around mental health has been the result of the work of people like John Kabat-Zinn and Mark Williams to make mindfulness and meditation more acceptable in the mainstream. Their work has allowed “wellness” and the idea of holistic treatment to become more “normal”. This can only be a good thing: whilst mindfulness may be something of a fashion choice in certain groups it is nonetheless extremely helpful in allowing people to establish a degree of calm and there has been significant research supporting its use as a treatment for severe depression as well as a way of helping with more mild conditions such as anxiety and stress. For insurers we need to think about how we can integrate this into our thinking as knowing that someone’s mental health situation is stable is crucial in being able to offer cover (key things insurers to look for are established medication, actively at work and a stable personal life).
This month we had an enquiry from a well-known figure looking for life insurance cover: they have spoken extensively about their battles with mental illness and alcohol but their health situation is now well controlled. We find that insurers are happy to consider cases as long as the situation is stable and, in this case, we were happy to offer an indication for cover including a suicide drugs and alcohol exclusion. The amount of cover was substantial but insurers felt that the situation was clear enough to proceed.
We are happy to look at enquiries from individuals with mental health issues, including those who have been treated under a Home Office Section. For someone whose condition is now stable, including depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar, our starting point would be to apply a small loading and a suicide, drugs and alcohol exclusion. We would ideally look for the person to be:
- At work
- With a stable lifestyle
- No inpatient treatment in the last 5 years
- No history of suicide or self-harm (or a considerable time ago)
If there has been a suicide attempt or serious self-harm in the last 5 years we would then apply a rating adjustment. We would postpone if there has been a suicide attempt within the last year.
We would like to see more awareness of mental health in the insurance industry. It is an issue that affects many people but as an industry we need to make people aware that solutions are available.
For more details please visit the dedicated area of our website for Mental health conditions
Or contact one of the team on:
Telephone: 01280 841430 E-mail: [email protected]
Notes to editors:
- Pulse Insurance is an award-winning specialist insurance business that offers life and protection products to intermediaries and direct to consumers.It specialises in innovative and bespoke cover not available in the standard market and provides cover to both individuals and groups. Pulse Insurance is authorised by the FCA and is an approved Coverholder at Lloyd’s.