The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a profound impact on mental health globally. It has already increased feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression and given rise to a range of digital and other interventions to help people cope with the “new normal.
Insurers would be well-served to stay apprised of mental health trends and the resources available to policyholders. We do not yet know the long-term effects the pandemic will have on people’s mental health. These resources add value to an insurance offering and help promote better overall health among policyholders.
Here we provide a brief survey of the new landscape with examples from select markets.
A recent survey in Canada1 found that 56% of Canadians think that the pandemic is having a negative impact on their mental health, and many group and CI plans now offer access to specialized services for mental well-being support. For example, Best Doctors’ Mental Health Navigator service provides expert assessment, treatment recommendations, and the ability to create an action plan. A registered nurse or social worker (a navigator) gives guidance and support throughout a customer’s journey.
Stronger Minds by BEACON, a free digital program available to all Canadians, offers guidance from clinical psychologists and resources focused on resilience-building. The platform also features videos and tips from mental health experts on parenting and overcoming worry and isolation.
In addition, many insurers offer free telephone counselling services manned by psychological health professionals.
The United Kingdom
A U.K. health insurer’s survey2 found that 80% of people experience at least one mental health symptom, such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, sadness, loneliness, or mood swings, on 300 days of the year.
Many individual protection insurance policies in the U.K. offer mental health helplines and health information services, and employee assistance programs provide resources within group policies. Health insurers also host mental health webinars and online hubs as sources of information, guidance, and practical tips.
Mental health apps offer additional resources. Thrive, a National Health Service-approved app, helps people manage their mental well-being through techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Headspace, a mindfulness and meditation app, is designed to reduce stress, increase resilience, and reduce burnout.
In Asia, a recent COVID-19 impact study3 showed that financial and social welfare declined during the present crisis. It also found that although family relationships have improved, workers have a feeling of always being at work. To help relieve some of the stress caused by the pandemic, a large insurer introduced free teleconsultations to approximately 6.5 million people across Asia, including underserved patients in remote, rural areas. In China, Tencent Trusted Doctors and Baidu have made their online mental health care services available free of charge. Startup KnowYourself provides psychology-related articles, programs for self-assessment, and a free online consultation service to connect with licensed therapists for COVID-19 patients, medical workers, and people suffering mental problems.
WeChat, Tencent’s multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app, introduced in May a dedicated Mental Wellness Helpline available via chat and video. In Indonesia, Halodoc, a healthcare network platform, partnered with an insurer to offer free teleconsultation, including mental wellness counselling with psychologists. Other notable telehealth providers in Asia include MyPocketDoctor in the Philippines, and T-PEC and Doctors Me in Japan.
The United States
In the U.S., more than 46 million people are living with a mental illness. New findings from a large insurer’s 2020 Loneliness Index4 reveal that three in five adults (61%) reported being lonely.
A coalition including Psych Hub, National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Psychological Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and major health insurers has set up a COVID-19 Mental Health Resource Hub. Video topics in the hub range from managing social isolation to guided meditation and breathing exercises to reduce anxiety. Interviews with leading industry experts provide practical tips as well as specific considerations for the pandemic.
DoSomething.org, a not-for-profit dedicated to young people and social change, developed a first-of-its-kind digital mental health guide, New State of Mind, to help youth cope with stress and anxiety during these difficult times. The digital platform includes links to remote learning, financial aid, and career readiness tools for students, and the campaign encourages young people across the U.S. to share their tips to help combat anxiety.
A range of tech-enabled platforms are delivering at-home access to mental healthcare. DialCare Mental Wellness provides assistance from licensed mental health professionals via phone or video consultations, and myStrength features activities and resources to manage stress and bolster mental health, including inspirational community support.
COVID-19 has heightened awareness of mental health, and the impact of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come. The need for apps, programs, and resources to support mental well-being will inevitably grow – as will insurers’ opportunities to partner with service providers in helping people manage their mental health.