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AIA Singapore takes the lead on destigmatising mental health

Singapore’s largest employee benefits insurer has a plan to improve mental health in the workplace for 1.2 million workers in Singapore.

Mention ‘mental health’ at the office, and you can still hear the nervous banter as colleagues attempt to steer the conversation to more politically neutral territory.

It’s a reflection of the stigma still attached to mental health issues, despite widespread examples of the negative impacts of stress, burnout, and mental overload that almost every professional in Singapore will have witnessed at one point or another during their careers.

Independent research confirms these anecdotal case studies.

According to a 2017 APAC Benefits Strategy Study, done by HR Consulting Group, Aon Hewitt, seven out of 10 employers recognised the link between mental health issues among their workforce. However, only 51% have implemented wellness programmes that specifically address mental health issues. And 38% of employers said they had no plans to address the gap in the near future.

Positive Versus Negative Emotions

At the individual level, the 2018 Institute for Mental Health report stated that 86.5% of employed people in Singapore did not seek help for mental health, in part because of the stigma that still surrounds it. So even when employers do make such services directly available to their staff, there remains a gap in participation levels among the workforce.

Positive Versus Negative Emotions

Now, one of the country’s leading life insurers is looking to make a serious change to that equation.

AIA Singapore is tackling both the lack of effective mental health and resilience training and development support schemes, while simultaneously busting some of the myths and misconceptions around mental health issues.

It is making its “Resilience Mindset” training programme available free to not just its own staff, but all corporate solutions customers as well.

The four-week programme, in partnership with Potential Project, a global leader in organisational effectiveness training, takes a deep dive into the causes of workplace mental health issues, as well as strategies to better manage stress.

Complimentary training for the Singapore workforce

You read that correctly. The training is available to all AIA Singapore employees and corporate solutions customers.

As the largest employee benefits insurer in Singapore, AIA’s complimentary programme now available to one in three employed in Singapore (1.2 million workers), at no additional cost.

Alvin Fu, Chief Corporate Solutions Officer at AIA Singapore, said, “Our purpose is to enable healthier, longer, better lives for more people and mental health is a major component in fulfilling this mantra. There is no health without mental health. With Singaporeans being ranked as some of the most stressed workers in the world, mental wellbeing is a vital aspect of any workplace wellbeing program.”

“This mental resilience training scheme was initially trialled by the AIA leadership team in Singapore. The goal was to help them become better people managers, equipping leaders with the necessary skills to identify and address employee burnout. The results from the pilot run were incredible, with a recorded quadrupling of mindset shift towards more positive, optimistic, and selfless thinking recorded after the session, compared to before. As such, we decided to extend this training at no additional charge to all AIA employees and corporate customers as part of a broader effort to nurture a culture of workplace wellbeing across the country,” added Fu.

The four-week programme consists of an introductory webinar, which is complemented by a series of subsequent check-in sessions that ensure a positive, lasting change of mindset and workplace habits.

Immediate impact

Fu says AIA Singapore leadership team underwent the mental resilience training pilot programme in the second half of 2020. The results from that first intervention were a pleasant surprise to everyone involved.

At the beginning, more than 25% of participants reported feeling “tired”, “stressed”, and/or “overwhelmed” in their daily work. By the end, there was a marked shift in those descriptions. 91% of participants’ language indicated that the shift towards more positive, optimistic, and selfless mindsets had almost quadrupled as a result of the programme. Some 97% of participants also said that they found the sessions “helpful” and would recommend it to their colleagues.

Pioneers in mental health coverage

The Resilience Mindset programme is just one of a wide range of initiatives and interventions that AIA Singapore extends to its corporate solutions clients and their employees. Fu says this is part of the insurer’s broader commitment to improving mental health awareness and coverage in Singapore.

Said Fu, “Life insurers have played an important role in encouraging more active lifestyles to reduce the number of health conditions experienced later in life. Looking beyond just physical fitness, it’s time insurers also review mental health as a crucial component of holistic wellness, which is something AIA Singapore has taken the lead on.”

“In 2019, AIA Singapore became the first insurer in the market to offer insurance solutions for mental health conditions. Launched in 2019, AIA Beyond Critical Care is the first and only critical illness plan in Singapore to provide coverage for five prominent mental illnesses. By taking this first step to cover mental disorders, we hope to encourage more members of our society to acknowledge these conditions as legitimate health conditions that require treatment and support,” he continued.

Looking beyond insurance solutions, AIA Singapore also has a comprehensive award-winning wellness programme health and wellness programme: AIA Vitality. The first in the market when it was launched in 2013, AIA Vitality encourages members to make real and long-lasting improvements to their daily behaviours to improve physical and mental wellbeing. Since inception, AIA Vitality has grown to over 100,000 members in Singapore alone

AIA is the only insurer in Singapore to receive official endorsement from the Health Promotion Board’s Workplace Alliance for Health Scheme as a valued programme partner. With AIA Vitality uniquely aligned with the Singapore government’s Healthy Living Master Plan, AIA works hand-in-hand with corporate solutions customers in Singapore to empower a healthy workforce, boosting productivity in the long term.

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