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Keep calm and carry on…at what cost?

Mental health is a profoundly personal issue with a very public impact.  That's never been more true than in these times of isolation, uncertainty and fear. "Keep calm and carry on" is often our default behaviour, but at what cost?

When I first started drafting this blog, it was long before "coronavirus" became part of our collective experience.  I wanted to use the blog to draw a connection between our frenzied and uncertain world, the growing importance of early intervention for mental health care and how insurers can help.  Looking back, I had no idea just how relevant this would soon become. Now more than ever, the topic of mental health and how we care for it is going to be increasingly important.  

For an issue so significant, it seems strange to me that historically there has been something of an awkwardness to speak about mental health more openly.

One of every four people in the world will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their life and today mental disorders rank among the leading causes of ill-health according to the World Health Organisation.

The reality we see in Life Guide

In Swiss Re's Life Guide underwriting manual, the ratings and information pages for Anxiety, Mood, Stress and Adjustment Disorders rank among the top ten most viewed pages – averaging over 560 hits EVERY day last year. In total, we have more than 200 pages, e-learning and training modules on mental health and behavioural disorders.

Everyone's interests here – including people, insurers, governments and communities – are aligned. Everyone benefits when people are as healthy as possible and able to remain at work and/or living life in a supported environment.  If you have diabetes, heart disease or cancer you seek treatment. Mental health should be no different.

With new technology and growing willingness to shed light on the problem, there is more opportunity for insurers to play a role in helping people to:

  1. Get coverage
  2. Get help
  3. Get back on the road to health and a productive life and work

Early intervention is key

Across the board, there is no question that outcomes are better with early intervention and treatment. This is where I see the biggest opportunity for insurers. Together with the Swiss Re Institute, we kicked off the topic late last year with an Expert Forum on Mental Health. And, we've made mental wellness one of our three focus areas for Underwriting research. Read more in this L&H Trend Spotlight just released.

Drawing on our experience in risk analysis and selection, we can work together with insurers to create new ways to assess risk and price more accessible coverage and open doors to more services. Insurers already know much about our customers, so the logical next step is to engage with them about their mental health and offer support.

This can be accomplished in different ways:

  • Focus on early intervention, using new tools to identify needs  
  • Work alongside network providers to meet these needs
  • Partner with digital innovators to enhance their solutions via apps and other platforms
  • Bring new solutions to populations we’re already insuring

Suffering in silence isn't the answer

While these are bold aspirations that take time, there’s something each of us can do right now. I'm passionate about removing barriers that keep people from reaching out for help.

Those of you who have heard me speak on this topic will know how important I believe friends and family are as a first step. With true friends, we should be able to have a meaningful “How are you/How am I” conversation – even if today for many of us it can only be a virtual one, that won't last forever. When someone you trust asks "How are you?", listen to the question as more than a passive greeting.  I think the past few weeks of unprecedented changes in our world have helped us all to see the importance of taking every opportunity to talk, to share, and lean on one another. Let’s build from this basic habit to make our world more connected, supportive and less lonely. You deserve it. We all deserve it.

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