Are we doing enough?


Across the country exam results are in for many young people. Sadly though, some will never find out their results. A staggering 1 in 5 youngsters, aged 5-16 years, (20% of our population) are suffering with mental illness1; to put this into perspective in an average sized class of 30, 6 youngsters could be suffering in silence. With awareness surrounding mental health growing, why are so many young people still reluctant to seek help?

When thinking of mental illness, we very rarely think of young people, but figures from 2017 show that 10% of youngsters aged 5-16 had already been diagnosed with a mental health problem.2 What’s more concerning is, children and young people with mental health difficulties go 10 years between first becoming unwell and receiving treatment.3 Unsurprisingly suicide is now the leading cause of death in people aged between 20-34 in the UK.4 This emphasises the need for early intervention and maintenance support services following an initial diagnosis. However there is currently a huge underinvestment in mental health research, with Britain spending an average of just £8 per affected person. 5 More investment is needed in this area to help all those affected.

There are many and varied triggers for mental health, however as a society we are constantly subjected to unrealistic, airbrushed images of women and men portrayed in the media. A recent survey carried out by The Children’s Society found that 1 in 4, 14-year-old girls had self-harmed 6 and Dove has found that almost 2 out of 3 girls in the UK have low self-esteem.7 With the perceived pressure to copy what they see in the media, it is hardly surprising that anorexia is the third most common chronic disease among young people.8

When we think about body image issues it can be easy to think only young females are affected. But that isn’t the reality, many young men are obsessively taking to the gym in the hope of drastically improving their physiques. In some cases, even taking steroids to achieve the ‘perfect’ body.

According to the Office for National Statistics an extra 19,000 males aged between 16-24 took anabolic steroids over the last year.9 Worryingly drugs, such as steroids, are becoming increasingly easy to get hold of. There are numerous psychological problems that can derive from extended steroid usage; depression, manic/aggressive behaviour, psychosis, hallucinations and delusions are all examples.

What is deeply concerning is that on average only 28% of children and young people referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were not treated appropriately. Even more shockingly 79% of those employed by the CAMHS stated that they imposed restrictions and thresholds on children and young people accessing their services. Unless a young person’s case is sufficiently ‘severe’ they are not able to access the support they need.10

So what does this mean for insurance?

Today’s young people are tomorrows policy holders and if the above figures are to be believed many challenges could lie ahead. If mental illnesses are not treated, could this make suicide and mental health problems more likely in later life? Being open will help to remove the stigma attached to these conditions, which could lower the risk of anti-selection. The fear for many with mental health problems is that they can’t protect their families financially because they won’t get insured.

The good news is most mainstream providers accept over 75% of mental health disclosures on standard terms for life cover.11 Some critical illness policies will now cover conditions such as psychosis and bipolar disorder in certain circumstances.

In those aged between 25 and 34 as many as 6 in 10 disability claims are due to a mental illness.12 Early intervention is key and many insurers now provide additional services such as mental health support via third party providers, alongside the traditional financial support usually provided to claimants. The insurance industry has the power to help provide a brighter future for those affected by mental health and we are already taking steps in the right direction.
Could we still do more though?

Thomas Chapman
Thomas Chapman-Hunt
Senior Underwriter
Ella Nolan
Ella Nolan
Protection Apprentice