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Mental health support for employees

Earlier this month, Aviva announced that ‘specialised support’ for mental health issues would be offered to all employees with its Optimum private medical insurance product. This new mental health service, which provides links to a range of specialists such as psychotherapists, psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists, gives an assessment within 48 hours and end-to-end clinical treatment with a dedicated case manager.

Treatment options include supported online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), evidence-based talking therapies delivered face-to-face, via telephone or via secure video-conferencing and psychiatric assessment with onward referral for medication or private inpatient care.

No out-patient limits or excess apply and the scheme is currently being piloted with Aviva’s larger corporate clients. “At Aviva we’ve recently been recognised for the mental health support we offer our own staff and we want to use this experience to help other employers better support their workforces,” said Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva.

“This latest news from Aviva is in line with other insurers and their income protection policies that are recognising the importance of early intervention in mental ill health,” said IHC consultant, John Tregear. “This is good news when you consider that more than 50% of group income protection claims are now related to mental stress and anxiety. We certainly welcome this proactive approach which supports employers to better tackle mental ill health in the workplace.

“Any initiatives that can help prevent stress-related absence by identifying issues early and before they become a significant issue is a positive step forward. And from a wider societal perspective, the benefit of mental health support that is funded by insurers is that it will take pressure away from the NHS while helping to maintain healthy UK workplaces,” he said.

According to the CIPD, mental health has now overtaken musculoskeletal conditions as the most common reason for long-term absence. “One of the key causes of stress is work, so helping employers to better identify and manage the cause of that stress can only be a good thing,” said John.

“Another essential part of the solution in addressing mental health at work is ensuring that line managers are equipped with the tools they need to support their employees,” said John.

Research from Business in the Community shows that 76% of line managers believe employee wellbeing is their responsibility, but only 22% say they have received any kind of training on mental health at work. “While there has certainly been an increase in mental health first aid training in the workplace, there is still more work to be done in this area and we’ve been encouraged by the numbers of providers looking to help bridge this gap,” said John.

Responding to customer demand, employee benefits provider, Unum, has recently developed a suite of mental health training workshops and webinars. Beth Husted, rehabilitation and wellbeing manager at Unum, said: “Our research in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation found that managers often don’t feel confident supporting individuals struggling with their mental health and are not sure where to find the resources to help them.

“Our new CPD-accredited workshops will help address this. The interactive workshops are designed to provide personal and workplace wellbeing strategies, recognise signs and symptoms of stress and signpost the support and resources available to gently employer and enhance an employee’s wellbeing,” she explained.

To find out more or to discuss how you can better support mental health in your workplace, contact your IHC consultant.

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