Life insurers will now be required to demonstrate their staff members have an appropriate level of mental health awareness, under new guidelines issued by the Financial Services Council (FSC).
The new FSC Standard (No. 21 – Mental Health Education Program and Training) has been developed to ensure life company representatives are equipped with the knowledge and skills to engage with consumers who may have experienced mental health concerns.
The FSC said that, in light of the significance and prevalence of mental health concerns in the community, it was important insurance providers’ staff received an appropriate level of education and training in relation to mental health awareness.
The Standard requires that insurers (who are members of the FSC) must implement a Mental Health Education Program for its representatives which:
- Increases their general awareness and understanding of the causes, signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions in the community
- Increases their understanding of what it’s like to have a mental health concern
- Helps them to develop communication skills for interacting with consumers who may have mental health concerns
In addition, employees who have regular, direct contact with insured persons or applicants should have specific training in relation to:
- Communicating the process and outcome of insurance applications that involve the disclosure of a mental health concern
- Managing a policyholder’s claim with mental health conditions/concerns
The education program should be reviewed annually, and will form part of the annual FSC Standards compliance process.
‘In 2011-12 three million Australians reported having a mental and/or behavioural condition,’ the FSC said in a statement accompanying the standard. ‘Recent research also indicates that mental illness may be experienced by 45% of the Australian adult population at some point over their lifetime.’
‘This Standard, while based on the goal of an efficiently functioning and sustainable life insurance industry, also acknowledges the industry’s social responsibility to support the advancement and adoption of medical technologies, which improve health outcomes in the community.’