Mental Health Specialist team to guide the management of disability claims

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WATERLOO, ON, April 24, 2014 /CNW/ - Manulife Financial announced today the establishment of a national Mental Health Specialist team that will work with Disability Case Managers to guide the management of all mental health disability claims and help ensure appropriate treatment and support is in place. This is the first team of its kind in the Canadian insurance industry and all of the team members have extensive backgrounds in mental health.  The team will be led by Dr. Georgia Pomaki, who has a Ph.D. in occupational mental health and a Masters in Clinical Psychology.

"According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 500,000 Canadians will miss work every day due to mental illness, costing the Canadian economy $51B annually," said Kathy McIlwham, Vice-President, Group Life and Disability, Manulife.  "To address this significant concern and support our clients, we developed a Mental Health Specialist team that will guide and support our Disability Case Managers in the management of mental health disability claims - the leading cause of our long term disability claims."

Mental health claims are a leading concern for Canadian employers as they account for an average of 30 per cent* of short and long term disability claims.  Manulife embarked on a yearlong mental health pilot that saw a decrease in claim durations and recurrences. Focused oversight, coaching and expertise provided in the pilot lead to improved outcomes for claimants and employers.  These are early indicators of the positive affect the team could have nationally for Manulife's clients.

"I am proud to lead a specialized and committed team that is delivering excellent outcomes for our clients and their employees," said Dr. Georgia Pomaki. "As a mental health professional with over 10 years of experience in workplace mental health, I am very impressed with Manulife's commitment to improving the mental health of Canadians by developing a national Mental Health Specialist team."

This initiative aligns with Manulife's strong commitment to mental health as part of a comprehensive health, wellness and disability strategy that covers the entire health continuum. This commitment to positive mental health has been recognized by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), who recently accepted Manulife into a three-year pilot as an early adopter of the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace - Prevention, Promotion, and Guidance to Staged Implementation.

Biography Dr. Georgia Pomaki, Vancouver
Dr. Georgia Pomaki received her Ph.D. in Occupational Mental Health in 2003 and her Clinical Psychology Master's in 1998. Dr. Pomaki also received the designation of Certified Disability Management Professional (CDMP) in 2011. She has clinical experience in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and family therapy. She has taught clinical courses extensively at universities at the graduate and undergraduate levels and is currently teaching a course on Mental Health in Disability Management at Simon Fraser University. Dr. Pomaki is also a lead author of the Best Practices for Return-to-Work/Stay-at-Work Interventions for Workers with Mental Health Conditions. Dr. Pomaki joined Manulife in 2011 and her current role involves leading the mental health specialists, implementing best practices and providing guidance and coaching to case managers on the management of psychological health claims.

*According to Mental Health Commission of Canada and the World Health Organization.

About Manulife Financial
Manulife Financial is a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. Clients look to Manulife for strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for their most significant financial decisions. Our international network of employees, agents and distribution partners offers financial protection and wealth management products and services to millions of clients. We also provide asset management services to institutional customers. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were approximately C$599 billion (US$563 billion) as at December 31, 2013. The Company operates as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia and primarily as John Hancock in the United States.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as 'MFC' on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under '945' on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at manulife.com.

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