Affecting one in four UK adults each year, mental health is no longer an issue society can afford to overlook.
While huge progress has been made, the UK is yet to successfully break down the taboo that surrounds mental health conditions.
According to Aviva research, 27 per cent of adults admit they would feel uncomfortable openly talking about mental health – a reluctance which can affect conversations among friends, family, colleagues and clients.
But great efforts are being made by many to push this important topic to the forefront of the national conversation.
Prince Harry has done much to raise mental health awareness in opening up about his own experience, and this attitude is being echoed from health professionals to government and, now crucially, employers. And I believe this can go one step further.
Advisers can also play an important role in raising awareness of the support on offer through protection policies; support many adults may not realise they already have access to.
More than just financial protection
Protection products have evolved considerably beyond being just a financial safety-net.
Many policies also offer some form of mental health support such as counselling, from the day the customer takes out their policy.
This is because mental health, work and money are inextricably linked.
The interaction between finance and mental illness is something we’re becoming increasingly aware of, with research from charity Money and Mental Health finding that people with mental health problems are three times as likely to be in problem debt.
Many sufferers may find themselves trapped in a cycle where they are too unwell to work, leaving them financially vulnerable, which in turn can cause their wellbeing to deteriorate even further.
It makes sense for insurers to offer mental health support as part of their protection policies as a means of prevention, to help customers and their families avoid mental ill health impacting their employment, finance or wellbeing.
It is encouraging to see that mental health support is now offered through a wide range of protection policies, and income protection policies in particular.
However, without clear understanding and open discussion, many customers may be unaware that these services exist, and that some preventative services are available from the day their policy is taken out.
It is crucial for providers to work closely with the adviser community to ensure customers understand the true value of their policies.
The support on offer to customers could play an important role in safeguarding their mental health and that of their loved ones.
Adam Higgs, head of research at protectionguru.co.uk, which provides advisers with detailed research on protection products and features, says that the industry as a whole has an obligation, not only to help clients financially, but to help prevent claims, or help clients cope with the cause of their claim.