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The Rise of Mental Health Claims During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health emergency. For many people in Canada, and indeed all over the world, the outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in a marked increase in stress and anxiety. After months of complying with strict public safety measures, enduring time in isolation, worrying about our loved ones, dealing with financial uncertainty, and coping with loss, nearly a quarter of Canadians report having worse mental health and stress issues now than they did during the pandemic’s first wave.

A recent study conducted by Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC) on the nationwide effects of the pandemic on its citizens’ mental health found that Ontarians are among those Canadians experiencing the highest increased rates of anxiety and depression since the beginning of the pandemic. If you or someone you know is currently in crisis, call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, visit your nearest hospital, or call 911.

The “echo-pandemic” of mental health may take years to overcome, even with nationwide vaccine roll-outs already underway. For many front-line workers, teachers, essential service providers, and people working from home, severe mental health issues may seriously impact their ability to perform the duties of their jobs. Even before the pandemic, mental illness was the leading cause of disability in Canada. The outbreak of COVID-19 may have an even greater impact on the mental health of people with pre-existing mental illnesses, and those with limited access to virtually-provided care.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition that prevents you from working, after exhausting all other compensatory options available to you, you may be eligible to collect long-term disability benefits.

Mental health disability claims are on the rise across the country. However, unlike physical disabilities that can be easily quantified and substantiated by objective medical evidence, serious mental conditions such as depression and anxiety are not observable on exams like MRIs. Since these severe mental issues are “invisible” illnesses, mental health disability claims are notoriously difficult to prove.

If your claim for benefits has been unfairly denied, a long-term disability lawyer may be able to help you appeal the insurance company’s decision.

Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety During the Pandemic

According to Canadian psychologists, the dominant mental health issue experienced during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was anxiety. Physical symptoms of anxiety could include elevated heart rates, sweating, and heavy breathing, all of which accompany a sense of panic. During the first wave of the pandemic, most Canadians experienced feelings of anxiety to varying degrees of severity. During the second wave of the pandemic, with lockdown measures re-imposed, inclement winter weather, and fewer hours of sunshine during the day, feelings of anxiety could easily have transformed into depression.

Also referred to as clinical depression and major depressive disorder, depression is a very real, very serious mental illness. This severe mood disorder could impede an individual’s ability to perform routine tasks, including the duties of their jobs. Depression may require long-term treatment, including medication, psychotherapy, or both.

While different people may experience depression in different ways, some common symptoms include:

  • Persistent feelings sadness, anxiety, and emptiness
  • Irritability, restlessness, frustration, and drastic changes in mood
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Lack of energy, extreme fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances (eg. insomnia, over-sleeping)
  • Increased food cravings and weight gain, or reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Difficulty focusing, making decisions, and remembering
  • Physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (eg. headaches, backaches, digestive disorders)
  • Suicidal thoughts, or attempts

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, you are not alone. Even before the pandemic, approximately 30% of Canadian disability claims were attributed to mental health conditions. Depression is a real illness, and should be treated as such. In order to properly address their mental health issues and treat their illness, people suffering from depression may need to  take time away from their workplaces.

Pursuing Long-Term Disability Benefits for Mental Health Conditions

A recent study estimates that, even years after the global health crisis has been resolved, Canadian mental health professionals can expect to see a patient increase of between 53-163%. It’s clear that, as a country and a global society, even once our lives are able to return to normal, the toll this pandemic has taken on our mental health will have long-term repercussions.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition that prevents you from working for an extended period of time, it’s natural that symptoms of your illness, already exacerbated by the pandemic, might be compounded with anxieties related to financial uncertainty. If you have an insurance plan covering long-term disabilities, you may be able to find a degree of financial stability through long-term disability benefits payments.

In Canada, long-term disability plans usually replace between 60-70% of a recipient’s normal income. Typically, policyholders only become eligible for long-term disability benefits payments once they have exhausted all other compensatory options available to them, such as paid sick leave, vacation time, short-term disability benefits, and more.

People seeking financial compensation to help them cope with mental illnesses often face pushback from their insurance providers. Unlike physical ailments, it can be difficult to prove mental health conditions with objective evidence. Even if a claimant supplies thorough medical assessments and expert testimonies about their conditions, insurers may claim that they cannot substantiate an applicant’s subjective emotional experience, and therefore, deny their claim for benefits.

Appealing a denied benefits claim can be onerous, time-consuming, and difficult for those suffering from mental health conditions. Many denied applicants simply walk away from the situation, rather than engage in a lengthy, complicated process.

With the assistance of a long-term disability lawyer, Ontarians whose claims for disability benefits were denied may be able to appeal the insurance company’s decision. Depending on the situation, a lawyer may suggest filing a lawsuit against the insurance company for unfairly denying a disability claim. If successful, a lawyer may be able to help claimants recover benefits payments, which can provide much-needed financial relief during a difficult, stressful time.

What To Do If You’re Experiencing Mental Health Issues 

During this overwhelming and unprecedented global crisis, managing our day to day mental health can be difficult. According to the World Health Organization, being mindful of certain daily behaviours could positively impact our moods, and our senses of wellbeing. If you’re experiencing increased anxiety or depression as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may benefit from:

  • Maintaining a regular routine
  • Keeping in contact with friends and family through phone calls or video-chats
  • Getting daily physical exercise
  • Limiting alcohol consumption and recreational drug use
  • Being aware of your screen time, and reducing it if necessary
  • Keeping your mind active by studying a new subject, or learning a new skill
  • Giving back to your community in whatever ways in you can
  • And more

The provincial government provides mental health, wellbeing, and addiction support for all Ontarians, as well as a list of resources that may be useful to those experiencing serious issues with mental health.

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

If your mental health condition prevents you from performing the duties of your job, but your claim for disability benefits was denied, Preszler Injury Lawyers may be able to review your denied claim, and if you’re eligible, appeal the insurance company’s decision.

To discuss the details of your claim in a free, initial consultation, contact Preszler Injury Lawyers today or call us at 1-800-JUSTICE.

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