"Professionals who embrace the responsibility of moulding their approach to accommodate clients with mental health concerns, will bring peace of mind to their clients."
Financial health and mental health are often closely linked, money problems can be a major cause of stress and anxiety, causing mental ill health or exacerbating an existing mental health condition.
For some, this can become a vicious downwards spiral of money worries causing mental ill health, which in turn affects earning ability which compounds the money worries and so on.
The label “mental health” covers a very wide range of conditions, severities and symptoms, and is by definition, a very personal and individual illness, it’s important that advisers appreciate this.
Role of financial advisers
With growing awareness and increasing openness surrounding mental ill health in UK society, how should financial advisers adapt and help?
Inevitably, discussion about existing or previous mental illness is a sensitive subject and likely to be extremely difficult for the client, so it is important that the adviser is able to have the conversation sensitively, with empathy and without judgement. Although a client may off-load their worries, it is important that advisers are mindful of their role and ensure that they don’t inadvertently take on the role of counsellor. Equally, advisers need to accept that for some people, talking about mental health issues will be outside of their comfort zone and restrict discussions to only what is absolutely necessary for the purposes of the financial transaction under discussion.
Clearly, for many products, full disclosure of all health conditions, past and present is very important but the client is very likely to be worried that exposing even a short period of mental ill health will mean they will be turned down for insurance, have an exclusion imposed or pay a much higher premium.
In addition to their role of financial adviser, there are a number of other qualities that will really help clients with mental health conditions.
• Listen respectfully and reassure. The sensitive nature of conversations around mental illness should not be underestimated as well as the fact that everyone copes differently. Through careful listening, demonstration of understanding and giving reassurance an adviser can help to protect their clients financially in light of mental health considerations.
• Protect. Careful research of suitable products catering for people with mental health conditions and providing suitable information to enable the client to make an informed choice can go a long way to ensure that money worries can be avoided.
• Signpost. Many protection insurance policies include support services such as access to counselling, online GPs and mental health nurse support, advisers can play a key role in ensuring these services are understood, so they can be utilised when needed.
Developments in financial product design
It is pleasing to see that product providers are recognising the importance of finding ways to provide financial protection to those who have experienced mental ill health. Several insurers have recently radically changed their underwriting processes to enable an assessment of an individual’s mental health condition and management of it, thereby becoming more inclusive and allowing more people to access insurance.
It is important that advisers make clients aware of the support services included within the products so their clients can make an informed choice about all the benefits, not just the financial. And, once accepted, clients know what is available and how they can use the services to stay mentally well, pick up problems at an early stage and get good quality help as soon as possible. This ,of course, benefits both the individual and the insurer. Such support services may include apps to help manage physical and mental wellbeing, access to counselling and other mental health therapies or long-term one-to-one support from a specialist mental health nurse.
These services, when accessed early, can tackle issues at an early stage and avoid conditions escalating to a point when the individual is unable to work, which in turn can compound a mental health condition. Money worries, self-esteem and isolation are likely additional factors arising from and adding to a period of extended ill health.
So, there is a lot of support available within financial products for people with mental ill health, and the better informed that financial advisers are about such products, the better able they are to support their clients.
The value of peace of mind
Through the role of a trusted financial adviser, professionals who embrace the responsibility of moulding their approach to accommodate clients with mental health concerns, will bring peace of mind to their clients.
Peace of mind regarding money can be a major contribution to good mental wellbeing and for many will avoid the vicious downwards spiral.