WHO estimates as many as 154 million people worldwide suffer from depression and on World Mental Health Day is fighting for the dignity of those who face discrimination or stigmatisation because of their illness.
WHO estimates as many as 154 million people worldwide suffer from depression and is this year fighting for the dignity of those who face discrimination or stigmatisation because of their illness. Whilst clearly global this is an issue that significantly impacts the UK with the charity Mind estimating that every year 25% of us will experience some kind of mental health problem. Nearly one in ten will suffer the twin devils of anxiety and depression.
Mental health issues can be difficult to cope with not just because of their inherent symptoms but the stigma that can still be attached to them in some quarters of society. No-one is ashamed to break a leg or catch the flu, but they might try and hide from others that they have depression or suffer panic attacks.
Work in progress
Whilst good mental health is clearly most important to us as individuals, it is also a wider issue. Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that 57% of people had taken time off work as a result of poor mental health, with 53% saying they always go into work when suffering from conditions like stress, depression or anxiety. It also found that employers are often poor at addressing mental health issues in the workplaces, despite the obvious impact it can have on absenteeism, productivity and staff relations.
Insurers’ attitudes vary, with both BUPA and Aviva offering some cover as standard whilst others such as AXA PPP and Vitality – provide mental health treatments as optional add-ons with BUPA’s scheme you can add an outpatient limit as an optional add on in return for a lower premium – whilst Aviva will meet up to £2,000 in psychiatric treatment costs and offers a 24-hour stress counselling line.
As the old adage says, though, prevention is better than cure and arguably the wellbeing benefits inherent in many individual and company medical schemes could be more valuable. Many health insurance policies will offer discounts to gyms and fitness clubs: it’s no secret that exercise has a role to play in helping maintaining good mental health by, for example, releasing powerful endorphins that can prevent or ease the symptoms of depression.
They can also help nip anxieties in the bud. If you’ve a troubling health niggle the temptation to Google may be strong, but the self-diagnosis may not simply be unhelpful, but counter-productive as a simple muscle strain somehow translates within an anxious mind into multiple sclerosis. Most private medical insurance policies these days include as standard access to nurse or GP led helplines which can ease concerns and signpost when necessary to other clinical services.
Employers can also look at how a well-designed employee benefits scheme might help improve their staff’s quality of life and in minimising the impact of mental health issues across the workforce.
So, whether you are Jo or Joe Bloggs, Ltd or Plc, today is a day to ponder whether you are doing enough to protect your mental health and that of those whom you love or depend on. Whether you can do more to prevent or address stress, to ward off anxiety, to defeat depression. Given the statistics the answer may well be a loud “yes!”