On Blue Monday, we’re encouraging customers to talk about mental health every day, not just on the gloomiest day of the year. With more than eight out of ten private medical insurance policies now covering mental health treatments such as CBT and counselling, we want to see wellbeing firmly on the agenda all year round, and not just to combat the January blues!

Blue Monday occurs annually on the third Monday of January and is calculated to be the day we feel at our lowest, based on Christmas bills starting to arrive, the time remaining until payday and failing new year’s resolutions. Many of us are also affected by the lack of sunlight and, as ‘divorce day’ on January 8 highlighted, the rate of relationship breaking down at this time of year is high.

It’s therefore no wonder many of us are feeling stressed, anxious and depressed - but help is at hand. Recent research carried out by ActiveQuote showed that 82% of private medical insurers now offer an option to cover treatment and care of mental health issues. For example, Vitality Health Insurance provides up to eight counselling or CBT sessions as part of its Core Cover policy, while Axa PPP covers conditions such as anxiety and depression.

ActiveQuote private medical insurance team leader Mark Todd says: “While January is a time that we all associate with post-Christmas blues and work-related stress, depression and anxiety can affect us all year round. While any way to reduce the stigma around mental health should be welcomed, we shouldn’t earmark just one day in the calendar to talk about how people are feeling.

“We certainly see an increase in people contacting us in January, February and March and we can’t dismiss the impact that the colder, darker days can have on our wellbeing. But, for many, it’s not just one day and it’s important not to make light of this.”

According to Government figures*, work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 40% of work-related ill health in 2016/17. 49% of all working days lost were due to mental health issues - the equivalent of 12.5m working days - and more than half a million workers reported new or long-standing stress, anxiety or depression.

Mark adds: “It’s great to see that insurance providers are now taking mental health into consideration. Recent research from Bupa has found that workers receiving mental health treatment has increased by 53% in the past 10 years, so it’s more important than ever that help is available wherever possible.”

And it’s not only insurance providers that are paying recognition to mental health. Anecdotally, ActiveQuote has seen an increase in the number of customers proactively asking for insurance which would cover them for mental health and associated stress issues - a sign, according to Mark, that the perceived stigma around the subject is slowly being chipped away.

“People are more willing to consider that they or a member of their family may suffer stress at some point in their lives,” says Mark. “It is great news that we as a society are more willing to talk about mental health and that the insurance market has adapted to this change by covering stress and anxiety as an option in their policies. But most of the policies will only cover people as an outpatient; if they are suffering severely and need to be admitted to hospital, then they will be transferred into NHS care.”

A report by NHS Providers, which represents almost all of England’s 240 NHS hospital, mental health and ambulance trusts, found that 80% of its members worry they won’t have enough money to provide quick, quality care to the increasing amount of people seeking mental health support**. This means that the right health insurance policy could prove invaluable in providing the best care possible if the worst happens.

Mark adds: “As a country, we are making some good progress towards acknowledging mental health but there is still a way to go. While the January blues often mean that mental health is talked about at this time of year, we need to ensure that it remains an important topic year-round. It’s an illness that can affect anyone at any time, just like a broken leg or gallstones, and it should be treated as such by society as a whole.”

If you’re feeling low, read our 10 steps to boosting mental health to see if small changes can make a big difference. If you think you’re experiencing more than the ‘winter blues’, speak to your GP or health visitor.

* http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/stress.pdf

** http://nhsproviders.org/news-blogs/news/pressure-rapidly-rising-on-mental-health-services