May 2013 is national mental illness awarement month. Mental illness continues to be the basis of many social security disability claims: in 2011 they represented 19.2% of claims. Mental problems strike the old and young alike: depression accounts for nearly half of all disability among young people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to a new study from the World Health Organization (WHO).
While many media articles in recent days have suggested that the rise in mental illness-based disability claims is the result of claimant’s overemphasizing mental problems, it has been my experience that most people underemphasize these problems. Mental illness remains a stigma in our society, and too many incorrectly see problems such as anxiety or depression as signs of weakness. Social security disability claimants often have both physical and mental impairments, and they typically underappreciate the mental problems. Many develop anxiety and depression as a result of their physical impairment, and incorrectly assume that the mental problems need not be treated because they are the result of physical disability.
In addition, many think of mental illness in the extremes such as schizophrenia or psychotic conditions. In accepting treating for mental or emotional problems, people often feel vulnerable to judgment from family and friends that they are “crazy”.
Mental illness and mental problems do provide an appropriate basis for social security disability benefits. Unlike the suggestions that Americans can “fake” a mental disability, social security law requires specific proof from legitimate medical sources. It has been my experience that it is not possible to secure mental illness or emotion impairment-based disability benefits unless the claimant both has a legitimate mental impairment and is receiving regular mental health care.
The theme of Mental Awareness Month is Pathways to Wellness, and is described as “a call to action for Americans to identify strategies that work for themselves individually to attain better overall health status.” Mental Health America suggests ” [s]teps that build and maintain well-being and help us all achieve wellness involve a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, a sense of self-worth, development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and community “
One very significant issue for persons seeking disability benefits based upon mental disability is to understand that actions undertaken like those suggested by Mental Health America to improve their condition will not be a negative for their disability case. Social security disability is based upon inability to work despite best efforts to get well. Administrative Law Judges also like to see claimants who are trying to get well rather than simply giving in.
If you are seeking a social security disability in North and East Texas based upon depression or axiety, feel free to contact me at 214-272-2103.