The lawyers at Aaron Waxman & Associates are experienced with Disability, Personal Injury and Employment claims.
This year is the 69th annual Mental Health Week (MHW) in Canada, which is taking place from May 4-10, 2020. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) first introduced Mental Health in 1951. The aim of Mental Health Week is to bring awareness to and help improve public awareness towards mental health and mental illnesses.
The theme for Mental Health Week changes every year. The theme this year is social connection and the designated hashtags for social media are #GetReal (about how you are really feeling) and #MentalHealthWeek.
Why is Mental Health Awareness important?
Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability in Canada. Mental illness affects a person’s ability to function in many ways, be it socially, at work or activities of daily living.
It is worth noting that although 20% of Canadians experience a mental illness in any given year, it is still considered to be an “invisible illness”.
According to CMHA, all Canadians are indirectly affected by mental illness at some point in their lifetime, whether through a family member, friend or colleague.
This is why it is important to have awareness weeks and to raise awareness about mental illness and how stigma is dangerous. Stigma could prevent someone from seeking treatment.
Awareness campaigns are important because they are meant to help people gain a better understanding of mental illnesses. If you have filed a disability claim for an invisible illness, it is important to show your insurance company you are following treatment recommendations or are attending the right kind of treatment for your condition.
Your insurance company needs to understand how your illness prevents you from working and have an idea of what your restrictions and limitations are based on your symptoms and your doctor’s/treatment provider’s observations.
What is the Difference Between Mental Illness and Mental Health?
How is a mental illness defined? The term, “mental illness” refers to a variety of diagnosable mental disorders. A mental disorder is a health condition characterized by alterations in thinking, mood and/or behaviour that is associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.
The term mental health refers to striking a balance in all spheres of one’s life including social, physical, spiritual, economical and mental.
While 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness (or mental health issue), 5 in 5 Canadians have mental health, just as we all have physical health.
The Facts & Statistics
Here are a few important facts from Canadian Mental Health Association’s Fast Facts About Mental Illness:
Here are some other important statistics to consider: (courtesy of CMHA)
Mental Health Week & COVID-19
As Mental Health Week is taking place while social distancing measures are still in place, the theme is reflective of this. The importance of social connection is emphasized as emotional support is even more important during the pandemic.
It is felt by some experiences that physical distancing would be a more appropriate term than social distancing. According to the Mental Health Week Fact Sheet (part of the MHW toolkit), social connection can help a community recover and rebound better.
It is noted that even before COVID-19 loneliness and social isolation were of societal concern and people with weak or few social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and suicidal behaviours. In fact, is documented that the lack of strong relationships affects the risk of mortality in a comparable way to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
According to a new study conducted by Angus Reid polling Canadians about the impact of COVID-19, half of Canadians reported a worsening of their mental health and 10% reported it has worsened “a lot”. The study revealed that 44% of respondents said they are worried and 41% said they are anxious.
The Government of Canada also recently launched a mental health portal, Wellness Together Canada for mental health and substance use support to provide free tools and resources for Canadians.
Mental Illnesses and Disability Claims
When you file a claim for short-term or long-term disability benefits, insurance companies consider whether or not you are seeking appropriate treatment from an appropriate physician or specialist for your illness, as that is one of the responsibilities under your insurance contract.
It is very important to demonstrate that you are seeking treatment and documenting your symptoms and rehabilitation efforts when you are on long-term disability as a result of an invisible illness like a mental illness. One of the most common reasons that short-term or long-term disability claims are denied is because of a “lack of objective medical evidence” or because the insurance company does not think you are seeking appropriate treatment.
You may be unable to see your treatment providers in person due to COVID-19 but may be able to explore alternate treatment options on the advice of your doctor/treatment provider to help you in your recovery.
You should always follow the advice of your doctor/treatment provider when it comes to taking your medication, attending treatment or increasing activity (if applicable). You should also always advise your doctor of any changes to your health including new or worsening symptoms.
If Your Claim is Denied
You should know that if your claim is denied, you do have the option to fight the insurer’s decision.
Your insurer has an internal appeal process you can go through which can be lengthy and may not produce a positive result.
You can consult a disability lawyer to find out your rights and legal options. A lawyer can commence a court action against your insurance company once retained by you.
If you or someone you know have been denied short-term or long-term disability benefits for any reason, you should contact an experienced lawyer to find out what your legal rights and options are. At Aaron Waxman and Associates, we offer a free, no obligation initial consultation that can be arranged at a date and time that is convenient for you.
* This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to substitute legal advice. Please read our disclaimer for further information.
* All of our lawyers are licensed by The Law Society of Upper Canada
* Office in Toronto and able to represent people in the province of Ontario