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Mental Health Awareness – making one week last all year

Category: Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness Week, Association of British Insurers, wellness

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Mental Health Awareness – making one week last all year

Mental Health Awareness Week is one of those few moments in the year where businesses across the nation, stop and think a little about the mental wellbeing of their employees. The government also takes the opportunity to look again at its mental health objectives and reconsiders its way forward. In this sense, it is a week of great importance, raising the profile of mental health conditions and the effects they can have on friends and family, colleagues and acquaintances alike. However, in the great struggle to raise awareness on this auspicious week, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The importance of good mental health is something not only to be acknowledged once a year, but is an ongoing commitment to self-awareness, to be more conscious of the wellbeing of our friends and colleagues and in tune to the subtle changes that can denote an internalised struggle in the people around us.

In his blog for the ABI earlier this week, Carl Padget spoke profoundly about his own struggle with depression and the important role his employer paid in his recovery. His employer did what all employers should do, they ‘put the person first’. Carl’s story is one of many I have encountered over the last few months while leading the ABI’s work on mental health. It takes courage to speak about your self in such a personal manner, but it is this that gives his words their strength and which in turn can inspire others to reflect on their own life, consider the health of those around them, and ask challenging questions of what we can and should do better.  

As an industry we are making strides to be more supportive, inclusive, and conscious of the mental health of our customers. Over the past year, I have been deeply impressed by the commitment of insurance companies of all sizes to challenge the accepted wisdom and push for change. ABI member firms are leading the way in supporting employees with mental and physical health conditions with the assistance programmes they need to stay in or return to work. New products are being developed with ever greater focus on mental health, looking specifically at how to maintain good mental health through preventative services to ensure every employee knows where to turn when they need a helping hand.  

At the ABI, we marked mental health awareness week with a series of talks and events for staff, including chair massages, meditation and art therapy sessions. However, our commitment to the health and wellbeing of our colleagues does not stop there, as we have a whole year of events, talks, training sessions and workshops planned, co-ordinated by our Health and Wellbeing Working Group composed of staff who volunteer their time to the cause of ensuring we live the values we espouse.

While we are proud of our achievements, we should also be conscious of where things are not as good as they should be. In this spirit, the ABI co-hosted an event with the Royal College of Psychiatrists in January this year, to look at how the underwriting journey can be more emphatic to those with pre-existing mental health conditions. This event brought together leading mental health charities, consumer bodies, clinicians and insurers to work through the challenges identified and posit possible solutions. For me this was truly inspiring event which led to the formation of the ABI Mental Health Working Group, bringing together protection, health and travel insurers with the objective of meeting the challenges raised at this event. Over the next year we will continue to engage with stakeholders on our journey to ensure that all customers are treated in a manner that we can feel proud of.

Looking ahead, there is no doubt there are many challenges to be faced, however we are resolved and committed to ensuring fair treatment for all customers. The industry is awake to what needs to be done, we are listening and we are changing. 



By Graham Walsh

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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