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Property loss and your mental health

April 5th, 2020  |  Home Insurance

When people are faced with loss, it takes an emotional toll.

Be it a fire, flood or natural disaster, they may have to rebuild a home and have lost many of the things they cherish than cannot be replaced. In other words, their worlds have been turned upside down.

Insurance brokers learn early in their training about the principles of indemnity – meaning the client should be returned the same financial position they were in prior to the loss. But what about their well-being?

That was the topic of discussion among panelists at a recent CatIQ Connect conference in Toronto, according to Canadian Underwriter.

“We can get a basement cleaned up, we can get a [house destroyed by fire] torn down and rebuilt. But we have to make sure we’re managing the people and the experiences that they’re going through,” panelist Stephen Darling, who owns an insurance brokerage in Muskoka, Ont., told the conference.

Sometimes, the person just wants to know “that things are going to get better for them, rather than knowing the process of that, on Thursday, a guy is coming in to do the tile work,” Darling added.

He was part of a panel with Chantal Gagné, vice president of personal insurance at Desjardins Insurance, Alison Paul, acting senior director of case management with the Canadian Red Cross, and moderator Anna Ziolecki, director of Partners for Action, a research network.

Darling, whose area experienced extreme flooding last spring, added he makes his personal number available and invites clients to call at any time, even late at night. “Because the worst fears are going to come to realization between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” he tells his clients. “You’re going to start to worry about something, and I’d much rather you phone me, wake me up, and I can [walk] you through that so you stop worrying.”

Panelists at the conference agreed it’s important for the insurance industry to do what it can to help mentally support clients going through a loss.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the stresses involved when dealing with an emergency or natural disaster are real. If a person is feeling stressed or anxious, they are not alone. The CMHA offers these tips on things you can do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

  • Prepare – Having a clear emergency plan and kit ready for your family, pets and livestock can ease your mind and allow you to focus on other needs.
  • Take care – Stress takes a toll on our physical and mental health. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep lowers stress and is an effective coping strategy.
  • Ask for help – Talking helps. Whether it’s with family, friends, a doctor or counsellor. Crisis lines are available to listen and help anytime — not just during a crisis. Get familiar with your local emergency support services, CMHA chapter or counselling available to you.
  • Help others – Reach out to the vulnerable. Assisting others can help us regain a sense of purpose and community while confronting challenges together.

The Canadian Red Cross even has a Psychological First Aid Guide available that provides emotional and practical support for anyone who is having difficulty coping with a significant event.

Immediately after an emergency or disaster, people experience a range of thoughts, feelings and behaviour that can be intense, confusing and frightening. These are expected reactions to an extraordinary situation.

The good news is most people are resilient in the face of disasters and emergencies. After an emergency, more than 80 per cent of people affected recover well without prolonged distress and without the event significantly impacting on their mental health.

Finally, never be afraid to ask your broker for assistance in finding the services you need.

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