This Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme is anxiety. Many people may be currently experiencing anxious feelings due to a number of things, including the current cost-of-living crisis, but this type of anxiety is not necessarily a mental health disorder that needs clinically diagnosing, nor does it necessarily need treating.
It is essential to appreciate that not every negative feeling is a mental health concern. Life is, at times, sad and stressful, but stress is not always anxiety, and sadness is not necessarily depression.
Good mental health support needs to include assistance to help people recognise and normalise these reactions to challenging life events and develop healthy coping mechanisms and resilience when times are tough, and to know when to seek medical support if these feelings are pronounced or prolonged. Those who work within mental health support know just how important self-awareness and self-help are in terms of good mental health.
That said, at present, many people are finding it difficult to access primary care services, and few have continuity with their GP, which can be problematic for people who are trying to understand whether or not they have a clinical mental health problem.
When an individual has access to added-value benefits, either via their individual or employee-sponsored insurance or employee benefits, they are better able to access a range of mental health support. Ideally this should comprise a mix of support, including lighter-touch apps and platforms to help individuals manage their day-to-day mental health, as well as support from dedicated mental health practitioners when a more serious concern is flagged. A continuity in care is crucial – the support that makes the most impact on health and wellbeing is when it is provided by the same individual over the long term.
It’s important that as an industry we also help people to learn how to help themselves.
That’s why this mental health awareness week, I believe awareness now needs to move on from focusing on recognition to be more about comprehension too. It is not helpful to over-medicalise every human emotion, but equally, clinical support needs to be available when self-help has been tried and is unsuccessful, or when someone presents with a genuine concern. This is undoubtedly a challenge but something for insurers, employers and the industry as a whole, to strive for.