Mental illness affects up to one in four of us at some point, but one little-considered area where such conditions – however mild and transitory – can have a significant impact is in insuring your life, employment status and even your holiday.
Some within the industry accuse providers of shunning the mentally ill, denying them cover or making it so expensive as to be prohibitive. "With comparison sites forcing the price of cover down, few insurers will take on the expense of underwriting non-standard risks and this includes mental illness," says Chris Jordan, the managing director of Orbis Insurance.
"Phone a call centre and they have a script – fall outside of that and they don't want to know."
As a result, Orbis has launched Active Minds, specifically for people with mental illness to help them find life and travel cover. "With life cover, insurers would exclude suicide from payouts but it is not always clear if someone has taken their life or had an accident, this degree of risk makes them reluctant.
"With travel cover, the insurer may be worried the individual will have a mental health episode and look to cut short their trip and put in a claim. But we need to understand that, with correct medical supervision, people with mental health issues are likely to be stable," Mr Jordan adds.
Orbis's cover is quoted on a case-by-case basis with precise medical circumstances taken into account. For example, a 42-year-old man with schizophrenia having six-monthly appointments with a counsellor would have to pay £121 for travel cover on a three-week trip to the US. A 35-year-old woman with bi-polar disorder would be quoted £26.27 for a week in Spain. For people with no history of mental illness, a week in Spain can be had for just £5.57 from OUL direct, while three weeks in the US comes in at £18.20 from Top Dog insurance.
Life insurance is even pricier. Orbis quotes £90 a month for a 37-year-old man who has made three suicide attempts whereas, a 35-year-old woman on medication for depression would have to pay around £45 — both for £200,000 of life cover. For someone with no psychological condition, premiums from Aviva for 35-year-olds start at £13.58 for a man and £11.33 for a woman.
"People should not be pushed into taking specialist insurance when they don't need it," Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at Moneysupermarket.com, says. "With travel cover, the policyholder should be told about mental illness under the pre-existing condition requirement … it is true such conditions are excluded from the automated underwriting systems used by many providers, making it hard to get a quote," Mr Atkinson adds.
As for life cover, Matt Morris from broker Lifesearch says he doesn't see problems getting quotes for those with a mental illness: "You can get quotes at relatively normal premiums. It's more difficult to get quotes for income protection – where policyholders are paid if they can't work – as mental health problems are, behind spinal injury, the second most likely reason for absence from work."