Insurance can help parents facing mental health concerns

Insurance can play a part in helping families navigate increasing mental health concerns, nib group chief medical officer, Robert McGrath, says.

Sunday, October 15th 2023, 11:26PM

The health insurer has released new data that shows more than half of New Zealand parents are worried about the state of their children’s mental health.

It surveyed 1206 parents and guardians across the country.

That is up from 2020, when fewer than a third of parents cited children’s mental health as a primary worry.

Parents were more concerned about their kids’ mental health than physical health, the research found.

The survey showed that, after the pandemic, parents were noticing increases in negative behaviours including separation anxiety, problem eating, tantrums, mental health issues or physical outbursts.

McGrath said it was concerning but not surprising. It reflected some of the increasing pressures that families were under, such as the rising cost of living, and the increasing presence of social media and other influences on children’s lives. “It’s something to be mindful of.”

He said insurance would provide a different avenue of access to mental health services.

The research showed that people were having trouble accessing some health services through the public system, for mental health and other concerns.

In 2021, two-thirds of people felt they were able to adequately access the level of support they needed. Two years later, 7% fewer people said they felt they could access the level of support required – equal to an additional 63,280 households nationwide.

“While there are costs associated with insurance, it does enable another avenue to provide peace of mind to people who need those services.”

He said there seemed to be a broader theme in society of people wanting to access services earlier. “That kind of ties into our cultural understanding of mental health and mental ill health. People are seeking that support more often and earlier, which is really great. People are more willing to engage with these services.”

He said insurance was another way to help people access services that could be somewhat stretched.

Rob Hennin, nib New Zealand chief executive, said it was troubling that parents were not always able to access the healthcare they need for their kids.

“As parents we all want the best for our kids and for them to be happy and healthy, but sometimes it can be difficult navigating the health system. Access to health services (48%) and peace of mind (52%) are key reasons why parents have private health insurance  but the cost of health insurance is a barrier for many families in the current economic environment.

“We’ve seen some great progress in terms of tele-health and digi-health in the last few years and a bigger focus on mental health so hopefully we’re moving in the right direction.”

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