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Should Mental Illness Be Considered a Disability? Essay

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Having difficulty functioning at work, or school, and having extreme mood changes with thoughts of suicide, these may be signs of a serious mental illness. Certain serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and panic disorders should be designated as a disability. Once diagnosed and on a treatment plan for at least a year, one can then begin the process of applying for disability. The SSA (Social Security Administration) for mental disabilities will need evidence. Filling out the application is the first step.

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Once completed a questionnaire about your ADL (activities of daily living) will then need to be completed. It is estimated that about 18.5% of the adult U.S. population is affected by a mental illness in a given year; about 4.2% of adults in the US experience a severe mental illness (SMI), or a mental illness that substantially interferes with one or more major life activities (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2014). SSA will look at your medical records for the last 12 months, and even request a psychiatrist for a thorough examination. Contacting a third party as another form of evidence may be required. This could be a co-worker, teacher, friend, or family member. All of these steps taken is to prove disability for mental illness.

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SSA (Social Security Administration) should find you disabled if you don’t have the mental ability required for a simple unskilled job. There are four basic abilities needed for any job. Understanding and memory, sustained concentration and persistence, social interaction, and adaptation (Skills You Need 2015). For example, understanding and memory allow one to follow simple directions from an employer and be able to remember what their daily tasks are on the job. You may not be able to concentrate on the job, because of sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. Social interaction becomes a problem on the job when you are not able to get along with other co-workers. The inability to adapt to the situation on the job will also pose a problem, for someone with a serious mental illness. The treating psychiatrist or psychologist should provide details regarding the inability to work or engage in normal daily activities.

Drugs used to treat mental illness, are another reason why mental illness should be considered a disability. Once the doctor determines what medication is best, it will take 4 to 6 weeks to become fully effective. A list of the most commonly used drugs for mental illness can be found on the WebMD site. The downside to taking these drugs, often have significant and distressing side effects. Some include; drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness and pacing, slowing down of movement and speech. Serious side effects include sticking out the tongue and smacking lips uncontrollably. Potential fatal side effects include severe muscle stiffness, feverish, sweating and high blood pressure, which can lead to a coma and possible death. Prof D.G. Grahame-Smith said, “Chronic [long-term] drug therapy may induce a sleeping tiger, which awakens when the drug therapy is stopped and results in rebound withdrawal effects with serious consequences, as with many drug addictions”

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(Grahame-Smith 2006). These drugs can not cure mental illness, but they will work to control most of the symptoms that enable one to return to a normal active functioning life. A decision needs to be made, on rather, your serious mental illness may qualify you for Long-Term disability or Short-Term disability. Purchasing Short-Term disability insurance does not cover an (SMI) serious mental illness, and is only good for 2 years. You can still purchase short-term disability coverage, based on the serious side effects of psychotropic drugs, that may interfere with your ability to work. This type of coverage is not for serious ongoing mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression. Getting Long-Term disability for a serious mental illness will be very difficult. It is advised to hire an experienced disability attorney who can help you through the appeal process. You may collect Long-term disability benefits indefinitely, for as long as you are disabled, based on the seriousness of your disability. It is common for Long-term disability insures to limit the payments for disabilities, due to mental illness, that is based on self-reported symptoms, that is not supported by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Supporting a family member with a serious mental illness is to educate yourself. Take the time out to learn what to expect when your family member starts showing signs, that their illness is not controlled. Try to encourage your family member to join a peer support group or a social-skills training class. Work together to set realistic expectations. Ask questions about their well-being. Research shows that compared to offering positive support, repeatedly prompting or nagging your family member to make behavior changes actually results in worst outcomes. The feeling of self-doubt and shame is not a good combination. “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all” (Clinton). Stereotypes, such as people with mental

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illness have violent tendencies and are inherently more violent. The most important thing you can do to support a loved one with serious mental illness is to have hope. Last year, Social Security Administration (SSA) updated the criteria that are used to evaluate disability claims, involving mental illness disorders. One revision was, “although a claimant must have a medically determinable mental impairment, the claimant does not have to have a diagnosis of his or her mental impairment to satisfy the listing criteria.” It was the most comprehensive revision to the criteria since 1985. While carefully considering the process of updating the rule, the SSA included the thoughts of those with a disability and their family members; psychiatrists, psychologist, and advocacy groups were all incorporated in the process of updating the rule. “If something helps your mental health, take the time to do it. Don’t stop, no matter what other people think” (Lyvers). People with mental disorders are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and should seriously be provided with efficient service and support.

In conclusion, mental illness is a serious disease, that, if proven can qualify as a disability. After seeking help and getting diagnosed with one of the serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, you can apply for disability. It is important to know, that individuals that file for mental illness should be careful with regard to working and the activities involved. Your mental illness has to be so severe that you can no longer function at work. Mental illness can be hard to deal with and frightening, so it is imperative to know when to seek help.

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Work Cited
Gross, Tal, Ph.D.; Trenkamp, Brad, MPP. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved; Baltimore Vol. 26, Issue. 4,  (Nov 2015): 1149-1156.
Nazarov, Zafar E. Journal of Labor Research; New York Vol. 37, Issue. 2,  (Jun 2016): 211-234.
Sánchez, Jennifer; Chan, Fong; Yaghmaian, Rana; Johnson, Eboneá T; Pfaller, Joseph S; et al. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling; Manassas Vol. 47, Issue 3, (Fall 2016): 6-14.
Sanderson, Kristy; Nicholson, Jan; Graves, Nick; Tilse, Elizabeth; Oldenburg, Brian; et al. Disability and Rehabilitation Vol. 30, Issue. 17, (2008): 1289-1297.
Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/serious-mental-illness-smi-among-us-adults.shtml

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