Mental health care needs to be communicated better

Mental health care needs to be communicated better

Employee benefits plans must be communicated better to advisers’ corporate clients and their staff, especially those suffering from mental health issues, specialists have urged.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, urged corporate advisers and employers to work together to communicate how many work-related employee benefits packages can help provide a “lifeline” to staff suffering from mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety.

He said: “The negative impact of stress at work has been well documented, yet employers often don’t know how to respond. It is clearly not an issue that is going away, with a significant annual uplift in the number of stress-related calls.

“Anxiety perhaps receives less attention than stress, but it is clearly a prevalent issue, representing nearly half of mental health related calls. In its most severe form, anxiety can be incredibly debilitating and detrimental to an employees’ physical and mental health.”

According to data from Canada Life Group Insurance’s call centre, more than 25 per cent of all calls made to its employee assistance programme (EAP) have been for mental health problems.

Data from its EmployeeCare line from January to May 2016 showed:

■ 28 per cent of all calls to EmployeeCare were for mental health. This was a 5 per cent increase since 2015

■ Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health issue

■ Work-related stress is the fastest growing mental health concern, up 37 per cent year on year.

Mr Avis added: “Employers are no doubt aware of the impact of mental health in the workplace and have a duty to prevent these issues from happening as much as possible.”

There may also be a legal implication for corporate clients, which advisers should make their clients aware of when it comes to supporting staff suffering and recovering from mental illness.

Karen Jackson, director at Didlaw, said: “The stigma around mental health is still alive and kicking in the workplace.

“Of particular concern are those in high-pressure roles in the financial centres such as Canary Wharf due to the demands of balancing a hectic schedule with their personal life, with specialists seeing a rise in individuals in these areas suffering from depression and anxiety.”

She added: “Declaring you suffer from mental illness in many workplaces is the kiss of death. There is so much stigma around mental health, partly because it can be difficult to treat and can take a period of time for recovery.

“Work can be a really useful tool in recovery for sufferers of common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression but very often employees are unsupported when they return to work and employers only pay lip service to adjustments like phasing a return.”

In May, Katharine Moxham, spokesman for GRiD, told FTAdviser there was not enough awareness of group protection within the workplace, and advisers could work together with providers to help their corporate clients communicate better with their staff.