Helping deal with crisis situations
December 4, 2019
During just one phone call, the MetLife assessor not only realised the member was suffering from a serious mental illness, and potentially suicidal, but also asked targeted well-being questions and contacted the correct mental health support team on her behalf.
However, the assessor said they only confidently managed the call due to their recent mental health training.
It gives staff, particularly those dealing directly with customers, non-technical but essential skills and confidence to help members with mental health issues.
It follows a rise in mental health related claims in the super-based group insurance industry, with mental health accounting for 15 per cent of overall claim rates and resulting in 50 per cent of claim costs.
Significantly, however, a 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by beyondblue, the National Mental Health Commission and The Mentally Healthy Work Place Alliance, called Creating a mentally healthy workplace – Return on investment analysis, showed people were likely to contact their insurers before they took their own lives.
Some of the key training topics covered include mental illness signs and symptoms, handling crisis calls, identifying suicide risk, building rapport and empathy, listening skills and referring members to support services.
This training proved vital when the assessor took a phone call from a member with back pain but who also had a past depression history in her case file.
“However, I didn’t go into the phone call expecting to have the conversation that took place,” the assessor said.
“At the beginning of the call we spoke about her back pain and how that affected her ability to work.
“As the conversation progressed, I quickly realised the customer’s life situation and mental state were dire.
“She was homeless, had just left a violent relationship and could not support herself as she could not work due to back pain.”
Realising the member needed immediate assistance, the assessor drew on their training to ask relevant questions to find out how they could help.
“As we continued with the phone call, she started to cry. I asked her about her history of depression and she expanded on that, saying that, because of her life situation, she had been admitted to hospital for attempts to take her life recently and was working closely with case workers from the hospital, who visited her on a weekly basis.
“I asked her when was the last time she had suicidal thoughts and she told me it was usually a couple of times a week. I then asked her if she was considering taking her life now.
“At first she said she didn’t know and wasn’t sure how she felt. Then she broke down – she was conflicted and feeling hopeless.”
Using their mental health training, the assessor steered the member into more positive thoughts, asking her what made her happy, which she said was her grandchildren.
“I highlighted that she could look forward to seeing them soon as it was only a couple of weeks away.”
Looking for the most appropriate support to refer her to, the assessor then asked what she had done in the past under these circumstances, which was to call her local hospital’s mental health unit.
“I told her I was going to transfer her to the hospital and let her regular doctor know about the conversation. She understood and was okay with that.”
Going far beyond their normal duties, the assessor then called the mental health triage nurse, explained the situation, passed the member over to them and contacted the woman’s GP.
“I followed up with her the following week and she was feeling much better. I spoke about looking forward to seeing her grandchildren and other positive things.”
“I felt confident and able to manage this call as it occurred because of the training I’d received through SuperFriend.”