Unum Study Shows the Prevalence of Mental Illness in the Workplace
In prior posts, we’ve discussed the mental health challenges physicians and dentists can face due to their high-stress and high-responsibility work environments. We often see doctors who are wondering if they can successfully file a claim based on a mental health condition, but are also reluctant to ask because they are concerned about what their colleagues/families/friends with think. Often, they feel like they are the only one struggling with these challenges but, in reality, they are not alone.
Unum, one of the largest disability insurers in the U.S., recently released a report that looks at mental health challenges in the U.S. workplace. The report found that mental illness was one of the top causes of worker disability in the United States, with 62 percent of missed work days attributable to mental health conditions. Of those employees with mental health conditions:
- Forty-six percent of those who missed work took an extended period of time off (over a week)
- Two-thirds of employees with mental health issues went to work while experiencing symptoms (and reported a drop in productivity)
- Forty-two percent of those who came to work were experiencing suicidal feelings
Despite the prevalence of mental health conditions (including anxiety, depression, and PTSD), sixty-one percent of the surveyed employees indicated that they felt there was a social stigma around those with mental health issues.
Although this study looked at data from employees, human resource professionals, mental health professionals, and research organizations that was not specific to the medical field, it is widely accepted that doctors are among those most likely to experience burnout during the course of their careers, with symptoms that overlap those of depression, anxiety disorder(s), and/or other mental health conditions. Unfortunately, stigma in the workplace and presenteeism may make doctors even more likely to ignore the symptoms of a mental health condition, push themselves to keep working, and/or avoid seeking support on the job and/or through treatment.
Ironically, we often see Unum (and other insurance companies) target mental health claims made by professionals due to the higher benefit amount of their policies and the more subjective nature of symptoms related to mental health conditions. They may pressure your treating provider for a return to work date, conduct surveillance to catch you in a happy moment that can be taken out of context, or have their in-house doctor question your course of treatment.
Further, many disability insurance policies now have substance abuse and mental health limitations provisions, which limit the amount of time a policyholder can collect for these types of conditions (usually to 24 months). For these reasons, it is very important for physicians, dentists, and other professionals to have an awarenes of the challenges that may arise when filing a claim and understand what their policy says.
If you are considering filing a disability claim based on a mental health condition, you should consult with an experienced disability insurance attorney to learn more about your policy and any potential issues related to your particular claim.
 Unum report explores mental health challenges in U.S. workplaces, Unum, March 27, 2019.