LV='s Justin Harper highlights that it is currently Mental Health Awareness Week and discusses the value of income protection for mental health claimants.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health problems are the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, with 70 million work days lost each year.
This is contrary to insurers' claims statistics - the main cause of new income protection claims at LV= are musculoskeletal conditions - however mental health did make up nearly one in five (18%) of new claims in 2015 and we consider it to be the most common reason why claimants remain unable to work, owing to the ‘secondary mental illness effect'.
The ‘secondary effect' occurs particularly among people who have suffered from an unexpected illness or injury that fundamentally impacts their capability to perform their job and renders them unable to work for a period of time.
The realisation that life has changed and accepting this can be a big blow, and such challenges can quickly lead to anxiety, loss of self-worth and can even give rise to depression.
There are two central challenges to having and maintaining mental wellbeing - access to regular mental health checks and being able to get the right help at the right time.
These can apply to anyone and at any time, but particularly to people who face a period of being unable to work.
This makes it important that insurers play their part in helping income protection claimants prevent, manage and recover from mental health issues.
We all know that income protection can provide financial support through the payment of a replacement income but increasingly the industry is realising that this product's true value is in the non-financial support and the ‘added value services' that come with it.
At LV=, we believe there's more to protection than simply paying a claim. We know that spending time and listening to our claimants can help us to identify what support and expertise they might need and we can act as a catalyst to secure the right approaches and treatment.
Every single person who takes out a protection policy with LV= automatically becomes a member and entitled to our Health and Wellbeing Service.
Part of the service includes counselling support and it is available free, 24 hours a week, seven days a week.
This service isn't just available to members, but also to their families, and the fact that it is free is an important factor to those who are already unable to work, and can't afford to up to £80 for a counselling session.
We also provide members with the option to receive a home visit from one of our approved specialist mental health nurses as this can significantly increase the chance of our customer making a recovery.
This early intervention and support has proven invaluable and we have recently increased our investment in rehabilitation services to be able to offer this to even more claimants.
For those facing the prospect of a long period away from work, our rehabilitation and back-to-work support services can help offer a personalised, practical plan, access to specialist support and an emotional support framework.
At LV=, we understand how devastating mental health illness is for individuals, which is why we're committed to providing protection that goes beyond the purely financial and offers wider practical and emotional assistance to our policyholders and their families from day one of their policy.
In Mental Health Awareness Week, we're calling on advisers to remember that mental health problems can strike at any age - 35% of our claimants are under 40 - and make all their clients aware of the added benefits that income protection can offer.
This will help ensure policyholders get the most from their insurance and are able to access support when they need it most.
Justin Harper is head of intermediary marketing at LV=
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