One in four people experience poor mental health each year. With so many members of the workforce affected and millions of working days lost each year, it’s becoming ever more important that mental health is prioritised by all organisations. Mental health challenges are now more widely recognised and understood, and business leaders need to ensure they effectively serve the needs of their people in this vital area.
For an organisation like Bupa UK, this puts mental health right at the top of our agenda. Over the past year we’ve revolutionised mental health services for our business customers and have extended these benefits to our individual customers and their families too.
Mental health conditions can manifest themselves in complex and overlapping ways. Diagnosis is often complicated, so those affected need straightforward, comprehensive cover that doesn’t hold them back with some of the exclusions or time restrictions of traditional insurance. This is why we recently took the decision to offer our customers support for any condition to do with the mind, with the treatment of dementia being the only exception. We cover treatment for all addictions, including drugs, alcohol, and non-substance related addictions like gambling. Prevention is better than cure, and we also offer ongoing support to help prevent conditions flaring up again.
And it is not just at work that we’re supporting our people. Mental health issues can affect everyone and increasingly we’re seeing parents looking for support for their children. Academic pressures and the difficulties of growing up with access to social media are having a huge impact on young people’s wellbeing. In fact, our recent research found that children on average are starting life on social media age 12, and that joining so early increases their chances of suffering from mental ill-health.
Poor mental health in the family affects children and their parents alike, requiring employers to take a holistic view when it comes to wellbeing. We have seen a huge increase in demand for our mental health services in recent years, including a 57% increase in calls to our direct access service in Q2 2019 – which allows customers to speak to a specialist without needing a GP referral. Initiatives like our online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programmes have also seen high uptake.
It is a real positive that people are recognising poor mental health in themselves and their families, and taking steps to address it – as early action leads to better outcomes. We are in the midst of positive change in terms of how mental health is discussed, and it is also a time of challenge. Business leaders have a chance to step up and lead from the front on this issue, to the benefit of their people, their families and the whole of society.