Super chuffed about the opportunity to write the guest blog for the mental health and life insurance virtual roundtable; I did the Gen X thing and googled “features of a great blog”.

Not surprisingly a few seconds later there were 2.5 billion results! A quick scan of these results and this advice stood out most to me.

“A good blog post is about one topic, one story, one idea... Before you begin blogging, figure out what you want to write about.”

Sounds pretty simple right? Well it would be except that the roundtable agenda listed ten items with ten different presenters... Aptly described by Sally Loane, CEO, FSC as “an ambitious agenda”. Instantly I knew the whole “one topic, one story, one idea” concept was going to be a challenge. So here’s my bold attempt to create a “good blog post”…

The sole topic of the roundtable was mental health (one topic ticked!). Everyone in attendance from the mental health sector, consultancy and the life insurance sector had an undisputed passion on the topic of mental health. Granted the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives naturally meant we did not always agree on contentious matters.  

There was much thought-provoking life insurance data on mental health conditions shared by Briallen Cummings of KPMG. What stood out most to me was that there is an average 11-month delay between when someone experiences a mental illness and when that person will report the claim. We all agreed that it is valuable to do some research around why there is such a delay. The more we can understand the individual challenges, the earlier we can help people get the support they need.

Bryan Jones of Munich Re shared relevant studies from abroad, focused on Denmark and Dunedin. With many valuable insights, I was particularly interested in the findings of the studies that any diagnosis of mental illness led to a greater risk of another diagnosis, with effects spanning up to 15 years after the initial diagnosis.

Lucy Brodgen AM, shared the great work of the Collaborative Partnership including the introduction of occupation health training for GPs this year. Dr Ben Gauntlett, Disability Discrimination Commissioner and Michelle Cohen of PIAC shared a case study depicting the challenges of purchasing insurance cover for someone with a history of mental illness. Both also expressed concerns about members in the community that may be impacted by the pandemic and the flow on effects to their prospects of obtaining life insurance.

As an industry, the individual disability income insurance review presents opportunities for us to consider options for a sustainable product offering to support a broader cohort of the community.

On the topic of the community, I was in complete awe of Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC). I listened with much interest to the national reform landscape. It was concerning for me to hear that stigma still exists. The types of stigma Christine shared were insightful, specifically stigma comes in three levels:

  1. Personal stigma - where a person is not wanting to admit they need help.
  2. Attitudinal stigma - where a person is concerned about what the community will think of them if they admit they need help.
  3. Structural stigma - where someone is concerned about disclosing a mental health condition out of fear it will result in a penalty of some sort e.g. in life insurance.

The NMHC’s 2030 vision, which embraces the concept of social and emotional wellbeing, really excited me. Christine explained that the NMHC will be looking at investing in mental health and wellbeing in the area of prevention, which she described as a “systemic shift” compared to what is currently being done. I couldn’t agree more with Christine when she described our mental health and wellbeing as “fundamental to us living a fulfilled life”. I was pleased see that the national reform landscape included an overarching commitment toward zero suicide initiatives. Imagine an Australia with zero suicides. That would be phenomenal.

One topic, one story, one idea indeed! Everyone is well intentioned in their pursuit to contribute positively to the mental health of our fellow Australians. The rich and robust discussion at these roundtables inspires us to consider how we can work together to get closer to unity and agreement.

Who’s to disagree with Dr Flores that “our best comes out when we have honest discussions”?

Certainly not I. 


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