How insurance can promote mental health in workplaces


Having the option to directly visit counselling centres, psychologists, and psychiatrists significantly increases employees' comfort in seeking assistance when they require it. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Have you ever heard the saying, "Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients"? Well, I agree with Sir Richard Branson on this. If employees aren't happy at their workplace, they might not be very eager to serve clients. Every organisation wants its workers to be excited about coming to work, have the right tools for the job, and feel supported while performing their duties.

It's important to remember that an average employee spends about a third of their day working, which adds up to a whopping 90,000 hours over a lifetime. That's why the workplace has a big impact on an employee's quality of life in ways you might not even imagine. Stress from work can lead to various health problems, either directly or indirectly.

Today, let's focus on how insurance can help prevent, ease, or assist employees or their policyholders in dealing with mental health and related issues.

Access to mental health services

Most insurance companies don't fully cover mental health conditions, and what they do cover is often limited within the inpatient benefits (fully covered under outpatient). Despite this, the limited coverage still goes a long way in ensuring that employees have access to therapy and counselling, and some have even started covering rehabilitation for substance abuse.

Having the option to directly visit counselling centres, psychologists, and psychiatrists significantly increases employees' comfort in seeking assistance when they require it. Some insurance companies and brokers offer toll-free hotlines for confidential assistance, effectively helping to reduce the stigma associated with visiting a counselling centre.

Some of the services covered include therapy sessions, psychiatric medications, mental health screenings, crisis interventions and grief management, just to name a few. However, insurance companies could do more by providing full coverage for mental health conditions, just like they do so well for physical health.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)

Various insurance companies offer EAP that provide free and confidential counselling services. These services help employees deal with personal and work-related problems such as workplace conflicts, marriage counselling, depression, or substance abuse.

Participation in these programmes is usually voluntary, although in some cases, management may recommend counselling on a case-by-case basis. When well communicated and implemented, EAP can play a crucial role in promoting mental health by providing services that encourage early intervention and support for employees' mental well-being.

Wellness and Preventative Programmes

Several insurance companies also have wellness programmes that address the mental well-being of employees. These include health checkups and health talks on topics like stress management and mental health promotion.

By participating in these programmes, employees can proactively improve their mental well-being while reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

The link between financial stress and mental health is key because when you have financial difficulties, you are not able to work well, it may strain your relationship at home, leading to anxiety and depression. Insurance companies can incorporate financial wellness training in their offerings.

These programmes can range from debt management, to how to budget or plan your hard-earned money. By doing so, insurance companies can effectively contribute to relieving a significant source of stress for their policyholders.

Where there is increased awareness about mental health, and with the recent unveiling of the National Guidelines on Workplace Mental Wellness by the Ministry of Health, insurance firms can play a pivotal role in supporting these initiatives and in making lasting changes.

They can truly prioritise mental well-being alongside physical health. Collaboration is essential in this journey, and insurance can partner with organisations dedicated to mental health promotion.

These collaborations will help insurance companies tap into the expertise, resources, and innovative approaches of these organisations.

Consequently, these partnerships will not only enhance their overall offerings but also yield substantial benefits for both their business success and the well-being of their policyholders.

Mr Njue is a health insurance expert on enhancing employee benefits and overall well-being and can be reached via [email protected]

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