2021 sees Melissa Colonna nominated for the Rehabilitation Excellence Award at this year’s The Australasian Life Underwriting and Claims Association (ALUCA) Life Insurance Excellence Awards.

Melissa, congratulations on your nomination. 2020 saw you delve into the question “How can MetLife contribute to suicide prevention?” How did you approach this?

Thank you! There were many things to think about including, how could MetLife:

  • provide improved care for our vulnerable customers;
  • give enhanced support to our staff who take the calls; and
  • better support our people leaders as they assist their staff through crisis situations.

We wanted to ensure that we were providing our customers with a high level of care while ensuring our staff were supported through the process.

The end product was a Crisis Call Management guide, designed to assist our staff to identify, manage, and respond to a caller who may be at risk of suicide or self-harm. This guide is specific to callers in crisis but also captured callers who are experiencing ideation or risk related to harming others, unintentional self-harm and substance abuse. A Crisis Management Tool, a digital tool, to complement the hard copy was also designed which acts as a interactive decision tree which guides the user on their next steps based on the callers responses. This tool was designed in order to reduce the cognitive demand of staff having to sift through pages of the Crisis Call Management Guide - as this often compounds the situational stress of receiving a crisis call.

What challenges did you face?

Firstly, we had to recognise that most MetLife Operations staff members are not trained health professionals and therefore, they would have had limited exposure to suicide prevention practises. This meant that the process and associated training had to be individualised to their needs, collaborative by way of design and simple to follow given the complexity of their roles. Secondly, we didn’t want to provide staff with set-and-forget training and a cumbersome process document. Instead, we wanted to design a tool that was interactive and user-friendly to guide staff in those crisis situations to the correct next steps.

How did you overcome them?

Collaboratively; I worked with many teams across MetLife to create a Crisis Call Management Guide and associated training.

I spoke to many stakeholders, at different levels of the business, when designing the Crisis Call Management Guide. The guide was then independently reviewed and assessed as best-practice by SuperFriend.

Working with MetLife’s learning and development team, we then created the Crisis Call Management tool and tested it rigorously and embedded it on MetLife’s intranet page to ensure it was easy to access in crisis situations.

The Crisis Call Management Tool also gathers data which allows MetLife to close the loop with the customer in order to deliver the best support to them based on their needs. This data helps MetLife to:

  • better understand caller outcomes;
  • offer tailored resources that suit their risk profile and needs; and
  • offer rehabilitation, if appropriate.

To embed the process and digital tool, we  organised an online e-learning modules, a face-to-face training session, visual desk cards and a 1:1 experiential role play.

What change would you ultimately like to see in the Industry?

I would love to see the Life Insurance industry reinvent the ways it supports its customers that may be at risk of suicide as our efforts are mostly reactive. My goal is to work on more proactive strategies, along the suicide prevention continuum, which help to prevent our vulnerable customers from ever reaching the point of considering suicide.

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