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Mental health resilience – the role of the protection industry (and a jam jar)

by Protection Review 13/05/19

In this guest blog, Justin Harper, Head of Protection Marketing at LV= looks at mental health and the role of the protection industry.

I’m not sure Alastair Campbell gets many mentions in Protection Review – perhaps he should? If you haven’t already, I recommend you read his Sunday Times article in which he discusses his own mental health, the fact that he rates his daily mental health on a 1 to 10 scale, and the fascinating role a jam jar plays in managing his symptoms.  

His article, and the fact that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week got me thinking about how we can get better at explaining the wider support, beyond the core financial insurance element, that protection products can provide for people with mental health issues. 

Over the last 12-24 months, we’ve all become much more open to talking about mental health. Meanwhile, from an industry perspective, we’ve been asking challenging questions of ourselves about how we can get better in terms of advice, product design, underwriting, claims and our communications more generally.

Stats and stories

At LV=, our people and our partners help hundreds of members suffering from mental illness every year, offering early-intervention, rehabilitation and back-to-work support. We know that when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, the money from an insurance payout alone is unlikely to help someone get better.

Yet, hands up, we don’t talk about this great work and life-changing support enough. Providers need to help advisers and their clients understand that protection cover is there to help people be more resilient – yes, relieving the financial distress, but also how we can boost their social, physical and mental well-being.

That’s changing. We now share real-life examples of the support we’re providing to customers with our account managers and we’re bringing back our regular Protection Pays claims bulletin.

Behind each example are real people with real stories that we need to get better at telling – bringing protection to life.

If you haven’t already, you should take a look at the 7families films, and in particular the story of Paul and Vicky Pickford.

Language and emotion

If we’re going to help advisers recommend the right products, we need to be better at dealing with sensitive issues in a respectful and human way.  Too often we let compliance-speak and jargon take over, making us sound impersonal, clumsy and awkward.

We can make sure that the questions we write into our underwriting quote-and-apply systems are the right ones and use the right language – striking the right balance between technology and a human touch.

The issue of ‘self-deselection’

Finally, let’s be clear – this isn’t something that’s a nice-to-do. Mental health issues affect one in four of us each year and are one of the leading causes of claims for income protection.

Given the vital role that protection plays, it’s our job to make sure that we explain the roles medical reviews, exclusions (including reviewable exclusions) and loading play in the high acceptance rates for protection applicants with a history of mental health issues.

Let’s not let clients and advisers assume that protection isn’t for them before we even get a chance to explain the life-changing help it can provide for people with mental health issues.

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