By: 21 January 2021
Zurich offers free counselling to flooding claimants

Zurich is offering free counselling to UK customers hit by flooding as it warns of the devastating impact of extreme weather on mental health.

As the climate crisis intensifies the frequency and severity of extreme weather, Zurich has announced it will offer free counselling sessions to customers that fall victim to flooding.

Under the initiative, existing policyholders who are forced to make a claim will be entitled to five counselling sessions with a qualified mental health expert. The benefit extends to their immediate families over the age of 18.

David Nichols, chief claims officer at Zurich, says: “The physical impact of extreme weather is impossible to ignore. But there is reason to be concerned about another, ‘hidden’ consequence of the UK’s increasingly destructive weather—the harm it is doing to people’s mental health.”

“For some victims, the psychological toll of flooding is just as devastating as the disaster itself—with the effects lasting long after the waters recede.”

“With five million people in England at risk of flooding, and climate change intensifying the frequency and severity of extreme weather, a mental health crisis is looming.”

“We must ensure that mental health—often the silent casualty of flooding—is not forgotten alongside the more immediate priorities to protect people’s lives and property”

According to academics at the University of York and the National Centre for Social Research, people whose homes are damaged by storms or flooding are significantly more likely to experience mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Taking into account other factors known to impact mental wellbeing—such as social disadvantage, debt and poor physical health—people hit by storm and flood damage were 50% more likely to experience poorer mental health.

Nichols went on to call for the government to act further to reduce the impact of flooding on people and property by overhauling flood resilience grants.

He says: “With the prime minister backing a green recovery, fixing the broken flood resilience grant system would be an effective way to mitigate the emotional impact of extreme weather.”

“Currently, the government only hands out funding for people to install flood resilience measures in their homes after a flooding event. This is akin to shutting the Thames Barrier after a storm surge.”

“We need to give communities most at risk of flooding a chance to defend their homes before extreme weather strikes. By making the grants available before, not after a flood, the government could significantly reduce the physical damage from flooding, and the emotional trauma that follows.”