Am I eligible for disability benefits if I suffer from depression and anxiety?

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The impact of mental health in Canada is widespread, at home, in the community, and at work.

According to statistics, forty percent of Canadians have had their lives disrupted due to mental health, with seventeen percent of Canadians claiming they’ve had to take time off work and school to deal with the challenges.

Seeing the invisible

While mental health problems are often invisible, their prevalence in our society – recent estimates say at least one in five Canadians will face a mental health issue in their lifetime – requires empathy, vigilance and an approach that ensures those suffering receive the care and support they need.

To be sure, with stigma still unfortunately playing a significant factor, people might be disinclined to share their stories of struggling with mental health illnesses. Add to that the fact that signs of mental illness are often difficult to see, it’s not surprising that many suffer in silence, feeling very much alone.

The reality is that anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, can be just as, if not more, incapacitating as ailments with a physical manifestation. That’s why Ontarians who suffer from mental health issues are protected against discrimination and harassment under the Ontario Human Rights Code under the grounds of “disability”.

Are you covered?

That protection is helpful, but does that mean you’ll receive disability benefits from your workplace insurance company? After all, short-term or long-term disability benefits can play a very important role in helping individuals suffering from depression and anxiety who are unable to work. So how do you know if you’re eligible?

Depending on the definition of disability in your policy, you should be provided with short term or long term disability benefits if you are unable to work due to mental health issues, and you have the support of your treating doctors. Unfortunately for many people, it’s not always that simple.

Communication is key

Keeping in mind the stigma and invisibility of mental health issues, it’s vital that you communicate with accuracy the particulars of your situation to your medical practitioner. It’s also important that you maintain regular visits with your family doctor and follow treatment to give you the best possible chance for your overall recovery and for receiving – and maintaining – disability benefits.

 Ask for help

Even though a person suffering from a mental health illness who has the support of his or her treating doctors who say their patient meets the test for disability, insurance companies aren’t always eager to provide them. Insurers can claim the extent or nature of your illness doesn’t meet the test for approval of disability benefits under their policy, for example. But this may not necessarily be correct. And you have options to contest the insurer’s decision.

If you decide to challenge the insurer’s decision, which you should, finding a lawyer who understands the nuances of disability policies and who has fought for individuals suffering with mental health issues is a priority.

At Howie, Sacks & Henry, our team of lawyers has handled many disability and critical illness insurance disputes. If your claim was denied, we can evaluate the appropriateness of the insurance company’s decision and take the necessary action, fighting for the benefits you deserve and fighting for your health and wellbeing.

For more information or to speak about a denial of short- or long-term disability benefits, please contact Brad Moscato, Past Chair of the LTD Section, Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, at 416-646-7655 or

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