Whether manifesting as anxiety, depression or stress, periods of psychological ill-health can affect virtually anyone. Often these instances are temporary and circumstantial, occurring in response to difficult life events and subsiding naturally enough with time, self-care and the support of loved ones. For many, however, debilitating mind-sets persist and sources of support aren’t always at hand. Friends and family may not be close or able to help, and, whether due to waitlists, remoteness or affordability, professional help can prove difficult to access.
The good news is that innovations in technology, in conjunction with a growing appreciation of the complexities around mental health, are helping to improve peoples’ access to these essential support services.
Introducing the Mind Coach Program
With 15% of all claims we receive being for primary mental health conditions, AIA Australia has been investing in capabilities designed to help our customers get the psychological help they need. For those dealing with anxiety or depression, support should feel as within reach as a chat over the phone with a friend.
While the program is still in the early stages of development, AIA Australia’s Mind Coach is aiming for just that. A telehealth service that uses the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Mind Coach is set to extend the provision of health care beyond the channels traditionally available, providing customers with tips, tools and information designed to help them feel happier, healthier and more connected – all through a series of online video-sessions and phone calls.
“We’ve seen so many of our customers struggle to access mental health support” says Steph Phillips, AIA Australia’s Chief Group Insurance Officer. “We’re really happy to be able to make a difference by offering health coaching support in this unique way.”
How Mind Coach works
First introduced as a pilot program in November 2018, with the view of incrementally rolling it out across AIA Australia, Mind Coach works to pave a way back to wellbeing by enhancing a customer’s resilience and social and emotional functioning.
AIA Australia customers experiencing anxiety or depression, either as a primary condition or as a result of being unwell and off work for an extended period, will be eligible for seven sessions with an allocated Mind Coach.
Following an initial assessment to determine the customer’s levels of stress, anxiety and depression, the Mind Coach will incorporate relaxation strategies and values-based exercises into a step-by-step action plan that the participant is encouraged to draw on throughout the course of the program and beyond.
A follow-up assessment is also completed at the end of the program, at which point the coach will decide whether the case should be referred to more intensive support. Customers deemed to require ongoing support will be referred to their local GP or connected with Medicare psychological services. The coach will also identify opportunities to provide one of AIA Australia’s mental health wellbeing programs, RESTORE, or return-to-work support.
There’s more to coaching than caring
So, what are the top qualities a health coach should have to help someone experiencing psychological distress? The general attributes of empathy, authenticity and integrity for a start, but also more specialised traits and qualifications, such as the ability to both support and challenge a customer to see alternate points of view.
A person who is caring, trusted and informed can offer a great deal to an individual working through difficulties in their life, but, unfortunately, such a person isn’t always available. By expanding our support for mental health into the online and telehealth spheres through our Mind Coach program, AIA Australia hopes to make psychological support both more widely available and easily accessible to those who could benefit from it.
“I have never talked to anyone about my mental health before, I thought you had to be ‘crazy’, but now I realise how much it can help. By the end of the program I began to look forward to the calls from my Mind Coach, he showed me a new way to look at things. I told all my friends and family about how the program helped me and now I have the confidence to go see a psychologist”.
– Mind Coach Program participant, 2019
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