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Travel insurance & mental health

While having a mental illness can be debilitating it shouldn't be a deterrent to living a full and rich life. Travel can be a wonderful way to alleviate some of the symptoms of mental illness but what about that tiny issue of travel insurance? You want to be covered medically in the event of an emergency, so what exactly do you need to know?  

Historically insurers were reluctant to provide cover to those with mental illnesses, however an increasing number of companies on the market are now offering varying degrees of cover. It may be tricky to find cover,  but don't rule your options out just yet! After all pre-existing medical conditions can be tricky to navigate and a holiday may be well overdue!

Does travel insurance cover mental illness?

When it comes to mental illness, cover will depend on a range of factors;

- Some companies will now offer cover by assessment for mental illnesses such as anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and stress. Once these are assessed cover may be granted, which could cost you an additional premium.

-Some insurers will cover for mental illness if the traveller has not suffered and/or sought help for that condition in the previous five years.

- Insurers such as 1Cover, Cigna and Southern Cross will generally cover first-time episodes of mental illness so long as medical documentation to support your claim can be provided.

Note that most travel insurers within the New Zealand market do still exclude cover for mental illness, however, a few listed in the table below will consider cover on a case-by-case basis.

So who covers what?

The following table highlights which insurers consider cover for mental illness by application and/or whether a first time mental illness episode would be covered. 

**Click the ticks and crosses for more details on each.**

Insurer Underwriter Mental illness cover on application? First time mental illness episode covered? Buy Now
Certain Underwriters of Lloyds No general exclusions listed for mental illness. You must disclose your condition and depending on your answers the insurer will decide whether to cover and what premiums may apply.
Go To Insurer
Cigna Like Insurance New Zealand Ltd No general exclusions listed for mental illness. You must disclose your condition and depending on your answers the insurer will decide whether to cover and what premiums may apply.
 
Certain Underwriters of Lloyds No general exclusions listed for mental illness. You must disclose your condition and depending on your answers the insurer will decide whether to cover and what premiums may apply. Go To Insurer
Zurich Australian Insurance Limited No general exclusions listed for mental illness. You must disclose your condition and depending on your answers the insurer will decide whether to cover and what premiums may apply. There is no cover for amendment or trip cancellation costs due to mental illness including anxiety, depression or stress, by you, a relative, or travelling companion, unless diagnosed by a registered psychiatrist as a new medical condition  
Southern Cross Benefits Limited Trading   No general exclusions listed for mental illness. You must disclose your condition and depending on your answers the insurer will decide whether to cover and what premiums may apply.   
Certain Underwriters of Lloyds No general exclusions listed for mental illness. You must disclose your condition and depending on your answers the insurer will decide whether to cover and what premiums may apply. Go To Insurer

General Advice Warning: The contents of this article were accurate at the time of writing. Insurers change their policies from time to time, so some information may have changed. You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement of your chosen insurer to understand what is covered and what isn't. The information provided is of a general nature only and does not take into account any personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your personal circumstances.

I can't find cover for my mental illness! what are my options?

In the event that your are not able to obtain cover for your particular mental illness you should be aware that medical cover is just one of the many benefits of travel insurance. There are plenty of additional circumstances in which travel insurance could prove to be very handy! Just remember that you may not be covered for any claims related to, exacerbated by, or arising from your particular pre-existing medical condition without prior approval.

Other reasons to buy travel insurance

Although your health is top priority there are other big factors that can make travel insurance an essential for all travellers!

Lost or stolen luggage: When you’re dealing with illness, the last thing you need is the extra financial stress of a lost suitcase or stolen wallet. Travel insurance will cover you for any lost, stolen or damaged items, provided you look after them.

Cancellations and emergencies: Should your flight be delayed for more than 24 hours, your travel insurance provider will cover any costs you’ve accrued. You’ll also be covered should you miss a flight due to any type of motor vehicle accident or natural disaster. It's best to buy travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday - that way if you have to cancel your trip for any unforeseen circumstance you'll be covered.

Rental car excess: Planning a bucket list road trip? Your policy will usually cover rental car excess, so you can drive off into the sunset, worry free.

Personal liability: Your policy will cover you in the event that you are responsible for another person’s injury. Most comprehensive policies will cover you for up to $2 million in personal liability fees.

Tips for travelling with a mental illness:

Having a pre-existing condition shouldn't curb your thirst for travel, but it's sensible to be prepared should your condition flare up.....here's a few tips for safe and healthy traveling when you have a mental illness.

  • Consult with your doctor and make sure you have all the medication you require for your trip. It's a good idea to have a doctor's note to accompany your medications in case you are queried at customs. 
     
  • Do your research and talk to your medical team about your destination and the solution to common travel issues like jet lag and motion sickness. Knowing what to expect and how to treat various unpleasant symptoms can relieve symptoms of anxiety and keep you in control.
     
  • Be prepared for the possibillity of homesickness. Travel can be exhilarating but difficult at times for those prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation. 
     
  • Bring along some coping strategies. Whether it's some helpful print outs, meditation exercises or some deep breathing techniques, make sure you have some tried and tested coping aids for those stressful moments. 
     
  • Practise moderation when on the road. It can be easy to go overboard while travelling and overindulge in poor food choices, alcohol and too little sleep. Ensure you are maintaining some healthy habits and taking care of your mind and body.
     
  • Sort out your paperwork. A letter from your doctor stating your pre-existing condition, symptoms you suffer from and a list of emergency contacts can be helpful should you require medical assistance during your travels. Relevant information that is easily accessible to a foreign medical practitioner can get you on the road to recovery, fast. 

What’s next?

Remember to always check the fine print before you purchase a policy. Don’t simply assume that you’re automatically covered by travel insurance. 

Phew! Feeling informed? Once again, it's important to remember that having a mental illness shouldn’t deter you from taking that long awaited holiday!! Once you’ve compared travel insurance policies, spoken to your insurance provider and taken all the necessary precautions for your trip there’s nothing left to do but focus on enjoying your trip. And have fun!

*Please note: the contents of this article were accurate at the time of writing.  Insurer’s change their policies from time to time, so some information may have changed. You should always read the product disclosure statement of your chosen insurer to understand what is covered and what isn't.

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