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Leadership Tips to increase employees’ chances of getting time to heal from mental-health conditions

Nainesh Kotak is the founder of Kotak Personal Injury Law Firm in Mississauga, Ont.

One in five of us in any given year will experience a mental health issue or problem, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

And Canadians struggling with a mental health diagnosis often need time off work to heal and reduce symptoms. And they often need help navigating the process of obtaining short- or long-term disability benefits.

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Both anxiety and depression can make minor activities, such as getting out of bed in the morning, suddenly difficult. More demanding workplace tasks, such as dealing with irate customers, meetings with managers or fulfilling daily or weekly quotas, may be completely overwhelming. The negative effects can be compounded when a person is faced with a high-pressure work environment.

According to Ipsos’ 4th Annual Canadian Mental Health Checkup in May 2018, the proportion of Canadians classified as “High Risk” is four in 10. One-quarter of Canadians say they’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition or mental health illness and three in ten say there is a history of mental illness or mental health issues in their family. Women are more likely than men to report mental health conditions or illnesses. Women, lower income earners and millennials continue to be most at risk.

One client we worked with, a 52-year-old man with a history of mental illness, experienced many workplace stressors combined with unsupportive supervisors.

His symptoms included difficulties with concentration and memory, in addition to low mood and anxiety. At work, his manager was not accommodating and, in fact, described his performance as “not within an acceptable range.” As a result, this man felt bullied and his anxiety levels increased – resulting in emotional and physical symptoms, including tightness in his chest, crying and throwing up in the staff bathroom.

When the man stopped working, his short-term disability claim was paid. However, when he applied for long-term disability, his insurer said that there was not sufficient medical evidence to support a claim that he could no longer do his job. They reached this conclusion despite having supportive medical evidence from his family physician and psychiatrist. Ultimately, his claim was resolved at mediation.

For employees needing time off work due to mental health concerns, here’s what you need to know:

  • It is important to tell your doctor how your disability affects your daily living activities.
  • Outline specifically the ways your pain or depression have changed your life, and not just the fact that you are in pain or sad or anxious.
  • Make sure you submit the required paperwork by the insurer’s deadline.
  • If you are on social media, photos of you smiling and looking happy could be used against you.
  • In order to qualify for long-term disability benefits, your claim must be accompanied by documentation from your family doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist, proving your symptoms prevent you from performing the tasks of your current job. Medical evidence of your reported symptoms, diagnosis and treatment is the most important aspect of your claim.

It’s unfortunate, but some individuals who genuinely suffer disabling symptoms due to anxiety and depression are denied disability benefits by their insurance company. Do your part to give yourself the best chance possible to get the time you need to heal.

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