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Depression, Burnout and Disability Trends

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that 1 in 5 U.S. adults – 51.5 million people – experience mental illness each year, but less than half get treatment. Mental illnesses are estimated to cost patients almost $200 billion in lost earnings per year.

Since the pandemic began, DarrasLaw has seen a rise in mental health disability claims stemming from COVID-19. Many clients survived an infection and continue to have long haul symptoms, or suffered the trauma of losing loved ones to the virus. Furthermore, many were unable to continue performing their jobs while adapting to new environments and expectations.

Certain mental illnesses that prevent you from working – or at the same reliable capacity as when you began your job – qualify for disability benefits. But it is critical to differentiate between a recognized mental health disability and a symptom – this will strengthen your claim and possibly avoid a denial from your disability insurance carrier.

Recognized Mental Health Disabilities

If you suffer from a mental health condition while working, you’re not alone. In fact, workplace stress or workplace harassment can exacerbate many nervous disorders – particularly in a world impacted by COVID.

Anxiety and nervous disorders form the most common mental illnesses, including:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Phobias/irrational fears
  • General or social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorders
  • Depression

Depression is the most frequently referenced disability our clients are experiencing, and filing legitimate claims for. Even prior to 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed depression as a leading cause of disability worldwide, as it affects nearly 300 million people. Furthermore, many forms of depression can render a person disabled, such as:

  • Major depression
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Psychotic depression
  • “Situational” depression
  • Atypical depression, and other types.

Most of these have baseline symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and feelings of pessimism.

Burnout vs. Depression

Many clients have cited “burnout” as the reason they are unable to continue working, but generally that will be a losing argument and a definite denial. Choosing not to work is self-directed and not a sickness. We understand why people have felt new levels of mental exhaustion over the past two years – some had to adapt to working remotely, which could have led to longer hours. Navigating schedules and designated workspaces, nearly all-day Zoom meetings, and setting healthy work-life boundaries can be difficult – particularly against the backdrop of a pandemic.

Although stress and burnout are symptoms of depression,  they are not classified as disabling medical conditions.  One can lead to another, but a singular symptom will probably lead to a disability claim denial. The terms are too vague and insurers can manipulate them to avoid paying out your monthly benefits.

Though companies will admit no bias against depressive conditions, and perhaps none consciously exists, burdens of proof for disability claims tend to lend themselves toward clear physical conditions. Though depression can present physical symptoms, the condition is largely an internal illness. Mental nervous claims are challenging to prove an ailment that is, in theory, “invisible.” It is hard to show your insurance company a picture of your broken mind, so make sure your therapist and/or psychiatrist can confirm all of your symptoms.

Depression-like symptoms should be explored, especially with telemedicine and virtual services now available. The American Psychiatric Association’s Center Workplace for Mental Health notes that depression is diagnosed if a person experiences symptoms for more than two weeks. Like most other health conditions, early detection and effective treatment lessen the severity and impact and can help you recover quicker.

Contact your general practitioner to see if this is an option or call your health insurance company and see what doctors in your area accept your insurance and offer virtual services. If you are diagnosed with clinical depression or another mental illness that prevents you from working, you may be able to file a disability claim.

Contact a Mental Health Disability Lawyer

Short- and long-term disability policies generally cover total and partial disability claims for mental illness. Remember, making a mental nervous disability claim can be complex, and with millions of workers impacted by depression, isolation and other mental disabilities, insurance companies have been flooded with claims since the pandemic began.

Even when claims are made according to your insurance company’s guidelines, there is no guarantee that the claim will be accepted or paid promptly. For mental health issues, insurance companies may make the insured jump through various hoops with frequent delays and multiple denias, hoping they starve you out and you give up.

When a long-term disability insurance company refuses to honor your mental health claim, it will be necessary to get the help of a skilled disability insurance attorney. Frank N. Darras has handled thousands of these claims for nearly four decades, and has been at the forefront of mental health disability claims since the pandemic reached the U.S. in 2020.

If you have and individual or group/employer sponsored long-term disability coverage, please contact an experienced long-term group disability lawyer as soon as possible.

DarrasLaw is Americas' most honored and decorated disability litigation firm in the country. Mr. Darras has seen more, evaluated more, litigated more, and resolved more individual and group long term disability and long-term care cases than any other lawyer in the United States.

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