A new kind of mental health support

December’s holiday season can be a difficult time for those dealing with loneliness, issues with family or financial hardship. This time of year sees a spike in Australians reaching out to health and community services who offer valuable support for those impacted by depression or anxiety.

Whatever the time of the year, a rising number of mental illness related claims in the national data, which we are also seeing at ANZ, demonstrate Australians are increasingly seeking support to recover. 

" At this moment, three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression."

Along with the broader sector, ANZ has invested in a number of initiatives working with health professionals to identify how we can offer a better service to customers impacted by mental illness.

These are the first steps in an ongoing journey which will hopefully redefine our role as an insurer as we seek to strengthen our relationships with customers and empower them to live their best life.

Changing perception

Not too long ago society did its best not to acknowledge mental illness, hiding it behind the closed doors of the family home or even the tall walls of institutions on the outskirts of town.

Its history of being overlooked, misunderstood or burdened with stigma (and stigma’s partner shame) continues to be the experience for many Australians today.

There is fortunately a growing recognition mental health is everyone’s concern. At this moment, three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. That’s the person next to you on the bus, in your office, or at your dinner table. Perhaps it’s even you.

While the current ‘wellness’ movement may have introduced sweaty room yoga and an avocado hysteria, it has also emphasised a valid connection between mental and physical health - valuing each with equal measure.

With our increased awareness and acceptance of mental illness, Australians are in turn seeking out professional services to help achieve their best possible mental health. The average annual increase in the number of Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services provided between 2011-12 and 2015-16 was 7.6 per cent. In 2015-16, this totalled 2.3 million Australians.

In the insurance sector mental illness related claims have similarly risen since the global financial crisis. Over the past 12 months, approximately 11 per cent of total claims paid at ANZ were due to a mental illness.

Customers are also spending longer on claim and this has broader implications for their recovery. For example, the likelihood of a person returning to work drops from 70 per cent at 20 days, to just 35 per cent by 70 days.

Rising claims and longer claim periods all lead to rising costs for policyholders collectively.

Holistic response

As an industry we have an opportunity to improve our support to customers by considering how we can respond to mental illness beyond merely honouring our policies financially. 

At ANZ a significant 63 per cent of new customer mental-illness cases opened in the past 18 months were directly due to anxiety and depression. 

If you or someone you know needs help, 

In response to this finding, ANZ has begun exploring initiatives that offer personalised support to customers as soon as we are notified of their condition.

Customers wishing to lodge income protection claims relating to depression or anxiety are now offered the support of a Caseworks registered nurse to visit their home and guide them through the claim assessment process.

Following this initial consultation, they are also offered access to a Remedy Healthcare MindStep program which is phone-based, complimentary and individually tailored, to support them throughout their recovery.

We are also working with our industry partners to raise awareness and support for mental illness.

This year ANZ released a life insurance education series to support advisers and superannuation funds help their clients understand how they can make the most of their insurance cover.

ANZ recently hosted meetings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane discussing how ANZ can work with its partners to form a unified response to the issue.


A renewed focus on wellness across the developed world is a valuable opportunity for insurers to create deeper and more lasting relationships with customers.

By increasing choice and access to support services, the industry acknowledges that individuals require far more than financial security to recover from mental illness.

This expanded role promotes not only customer wellbeing and access to affordable protection but also supports the sustainability of our sector long-term.

Our purpose as insurers is being redefined as we aim to better respond to customer expectations and to build greater public trust in our commitment to be there for them, when we are called on.

Gerard Kerr is Head of Life Insurance at ANZ Wealth

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

27 Mar 2017

We need to talk about mental health (at work)

Darren Abbruzzese | Former General Manager Data, ANZ

I had a conversation recently with a colleague who spoke of his wife's anxiety issues. Sometimes her anxiety can be quite overwhelming and he's had to take time off work to care for her.

19 May 2016

The surprising cost of mental health in the workplace

Leon Gettler | Veteran and highly regarded management journalist

A mentally healthy workplace is good for business. Research shows it leads to less absenteeism, more-engaged workers, better productivity and morale. It reduces the chances of a company being hit with workplace disability claims and fines for breaches of health and safety laws.