The Super Friend Program

Colin Tate: Helen, can you tell us what industry funds have done about mental health?

Helen Hewett: Industry funds – the people managing them – are well aware from looking at the claims history that comes through all the time, and individual claims, that mental health is a significant issue and has been for a long while. The funds looked at how they might be able to do something collectively through the Industry Funds Forum to develop some services to members…

We held some focus groups which included mental health professionals… It was just amazing how many people have been personally affected at some point in their lives by mental health, that were sitting around at those focus groups. The people there felt that if our industry funds offered access to services they would go for it. The other thing we realised from the mental health professionals was that the biggest challenge was not the people so much that had already come to terms with or identified that they were dealing with a mental health problem, but the people who didn’t yet recognise that’s what they were dealing with.

And the parents of children who didn’t recognise that’s what they were dealing with. We realised we could get to those people with education material and help increase the awareness about mental health issues, and about services. So, what the funds decided to do was set up a foundation, a trust. We asked our insurers to contribute voluntary levies if you like, which is a portion of premium income to that fund. All of the work that’s done is pro bono. The lawyers and everybody do it pro bono.

We applied and were successful in getting tax deductibility status so people can make donations and get a tax deduction. The program is called Super Friend. We came up with that name after some research because people said they would look at that and they would be inquisitive to find out what it was all about. It was a way of subtly leading people into being educated about mental illness.

So the first two programs are: we’re developing a web site, which will help guide people to services that are available. The intention is to have two primary objectives – to encourage early help and to give people a guided access to services available. And the other program is to do some work in the area of prevention. That would probably include researching, helping researchers to actually help cure mental illness. With the web site we will have a number of mental health partners who will provide information on things like bi-polar, schizophrenia, depression, and they will maintain that area of data on their own web sites…

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