IDSS to tackle mental health and insurance challenges

Mental health is a key theme at this year’s Injury and Disability Schemes Seminar (IDSS). Here, Hugh Miller outlines some of the issues – including exercise benefits, best practice claims management, and secondary harm – that will be explored by speakers in depth.

Mental health issues are an increasingly important issue for many schemes. Numbers of diagnoses are increasing and sufferers often need extended periods of support. Mental health issues also have a profound impact on society more broadly; up to one in five people suffer a mental illness each year, most commonly depression or anxiety.

Given its rising importance, it’s no surprise that mental health is a key theme at this year’s Injury & Disability Schemes Seminar (IDSS) in Brisbane this November. First, one of the Plenary sessions will be devoted to the topic. Facilitated by Dr Norman Swan, Australia’s leading health journalist, it will feature four panellists with experience in how mental health is impacting our society. The panellists will explore the challenges of mental health issues for schemes and employers, and for those people with a lived experience of a mental health issue. The Actuaries Institute’s newest Green Paper ‘Mental Health and Insurance’ (which is set to launch in mid-October) will also be discussed by panellist Geoff Atkins, who co-wrote the Paper.

Second, there are no less than four concurrent sessions devoted to mental health. Joshua Martin and Jefferson Gibbs will present an introduction to mental health, covering perspectives from occupational health and safety, claims management, and an actuarial view. This will naturally lead into what the actuarial community is doing, and whether it could do more to add value to schemes seeing high levels of mental health claims.

Dr Simon Rosenbaum and Steven McCullagh will be exploring the benefits of exercise for mental health sufferers. Simon will show how structured exercise, such as the St John Of God Health Care’s Richmond Hospital’s PTSD treatment program, can improve outcomes for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Relatedly, Steven will share insights around NSW Police’s initiative to introduce specialised gym programs to help police force members suffering psychological injury, including PTSD.

Margo Lydon, Professor Niki Ellis and Kane Sinclair will be presenting a framework recently published by Superfriend that they believe is current best practice for managing psychological claims. This is based on the principles of centring the person on claim, working on different levels of intervention, and seeking continuous improvement. The discussion will have particular relevance for superannuation funds and group life providers.

Finally, Sue Freeman and Geoff Atkins will discuss how we assess mental health conditions, and ask whether we add harm in some of our current practices in the insurance process. There is a challenge in promoting recovery, as often mental health sufferers can experience secondary harm and struggle to break downward spirals.

IDSS will be a great opportunity to explore an issue that affects most of us – either directly, or through people we know. Better understanding is the first step to better programs, outcomes and insurance response to mental health conditions.

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