Life’s ups and downs
Mr S is an experienced fitter and turner who lives and works in Sydney’s south-western suburbs. As a tradesman, his work is highly physical and often requires long hours of intense concentration. In 2001, Mr S began developing signs of depression and anxiety.
Because his mental health was impacting on his capacity to work, Mr S slowly fell into a cycle of taking time out from employment, then eventually returning to paid employment or self-employment. But without truly addressing the underlying issues, he would soon find himself relapsing and unable to work again.
This pattern reached a crisis point in 2019, Mr S’s most emotionally difficult year. First, his beloved wife passed away and not long after, his best friend received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, Mr S lost his support network and became isolated and lonely at home, struggling with a lack of confidence, energy and motivation. He also gained weight, which made the physical aspects of his job even harder to manage and added to his depression.
In December, Mr S left his employer to focus fully on his mental health. Yet despite the treatment of a psychologist and psychiatrist, his symptoms were showing little improvement, and he was still struggling to get through life’s ups and downs on his own.
Thinking outside the box
As an AMP Life customer, Mr S got in touch with us to make a claim on his income protection cover. He began receiving regular payments to support him financially during his break from the workforce.
His case manager held ongoing conversations and check-ins with Mr S, taking the time to understand the difficulties impacting on his recovery. Because traditional mental health support was not proving effective, Mr S’s case manager then worked with Chris Thompson from the AMP Life Recovery Specialist team to come up with alternative solutions.
Chris explained, “We really needed to think outside of the box in terms of why Mr S wasn’t responding to his treatment. This opened up a conversation about how we could approach this claim and support him in a more sustained way.”
Through his discussions with his case manager, Mr S mentioned his unhappiness with his weight gain. This prompted the Recovery Specialist team to consider an Exercise Physiology program as a tool for developing routine, building confidence and reducing stress.
“That was a light bulb moment – because it was something we could tangibly work with,” Chris said. “It really underscores the importance of not taking a blanket approach but making sure the support we offer is meaningful for each customer and targeted to the issue they’ve presented.”
The power of exercise and support
Over several months of attending sessions with an Exercise Physiologist, Mr S not only achieved his weight loss goal, but he also increased his confidence and energy levels. His sleeping patterns and mood improved drastically. Slowly but surely, his testing scores, which initially reflected “extremely severe” symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, all returned to a reported level of “normal”.
Chris commented, “We know the mental health benefits that exercise can have – with flow on effects on general mood, anxiety and sleep. That’s why it became a key part of Mr S’s recovery and helping him move forward.”
Thanks to the boost in his confidence, Mr S was able to transition from a home-based exercise program to attending the gym four to five times a week by himself. This milestone marked an important shift towards lifelong changes that he will now be able to maintain independently.
“Ultimately, the goal is to establish and embed healthy lifestyle factors that the customer can continue after the claim has ended – they just need someone to support and guide them which assists in keeping them accountable,” Chris said. “And when you consider that Mr S was initially afraid to leave the house, it just highlights how significant his progress was.”
A successful return to work
When he felt ready, Mr S became very motivated to return to work. However, due to his previous return to work patterns, the team at AMP Life wanted to ensure that he would be able to remain in employment for the long term.
We engaged an occupational rehabilitation provider to support him through the job-seeking phase. They discussed his work options and values, so Mr S could identify the most appropriate roles to apply for. They also helped him with his cover letter, CV, and interview coaching – making sure he had all the tools he needed to set him up for success in the interview process.
By the end of 2020, despite the pandemic affecting the employment of many Australians, Mr S secured a full-time job – a true testament to the lifechanging power of exercise. And if he ever needs support in the future, AMP Life will be right there for him.
*The customer's name has been changed to protect his anonymity.
** This has been provided as an example only to illustrate the potential benefit of taking out income protection cover, and should not be relied upon as indicative of the benefits you will receive under the income protection benefit.”.
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