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It’s been terrific to see Australia get behind Mental Health Week – raising awareness and reducing stigma and discrimination. However, we still see cases every year where companies refuse to give insurance to people with a history of mental illness, no matter how minor or how quickly or completely the individual made a recovery.

Income protection insurance is most often identified as the product people with a history of mental illness struggle to get access to. Many insurers simply outright refuse to provide income protection to anyone with any history of depression, anxiety or other related disorders. A medical history including moderate post natal depression, or counselling for family difficulties can see people refused for cover.

Just because you haven’t disclosed your mental health history doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.

Although insurers will often refuse to provide insurance in the first place, they may also try to cancel a policy when a person makes a claim after having cover for years.

They justify this by saying the history of mental illness should have been disclosed in the original application for insurance.

Stigma and discrimination attached to mental health is breaking down evey year so it’s right to question how this practice can still be tolerated in 2015. Insurers are bound to comply with disability discrimination laws just like everyone else in Australia – but they can only discriminate against people with a history of mental illness if they have a well-founded reason to do so. That means insurers must take a nuanced approach to mental health. Why should a person who had one isolated period of post-natal depression, or depression following the death of a loved one be treated by an insurer as posing the same risk of claiming as a person with a severe long-term illness? They shouldn't be – obviously – but the reality is that in many cases they are.

If you have been denied insurance, or had your policy cancelled because of a history of mental illness, you may be able to take action. You can get in touch with us to discuss your options.

You can also share your story and keep up-to-date with beyondblue’s work in this area here: www.beyondblue.org.au/insurance

The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.

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