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Mental Health at Work

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As a person with bipolar disorder, mental illness feels like a balancing act. In order to stay healthy, I have to be sure to take my meds, get enough sleep, and stay attuned to my mood. I am always aware of the potential for the symptoms of mania and depression to recur, and must be prepared to manage them.

A healthy workplace environment is key to managing those symptoms at work – and it involves many of the same supports that all workers appreciate, things like access to employee assistance programs, health coverage, work-life balance policies and reasonable accommodations. Supports like these mean I’m not sitting on the sidelines with my skills and experience – I’m coming to work and getting in the game. And for the countless businesses that employ people with mental health issues, it means a productive, appreciative workforce.

Living with a mental illness also includes being aware of the stigma that comes along with it. A misperception about people with mental health disabilities is that they are weak or have a flawed character, rather than recognizing the biological basis of these conditions. Sadly, attitudes like these prevent people from seeking the help that they need to live healthy lives, and may discourage employers from hiring skilled, productive workers.

One of the key factors in maintaining my own health has been having a job. Employment has given me focus, allowed me to support myself, and kept me looking forward through difficult times. I have been fortunate to have employers who provided me with job accommodations, stuck by me through hospitalizations, and allowed me the time to recover and return to work.  

Just as many employers readily accommodate an employee experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis through telework, provide leave for an employee who is hospitalized for cancer treatment, or encourage an employee with a chronic back injury to return to work, it makes good business sense to provide such flexibilities to those with mental health disabilities.

Employment has definitely helped my mental health and the mental health of many others as well. There were times when I thought I would never work again, but an encouraging employer and the right job accommodations allowed me to get back on my feet, helping me to recover. Employers who make the availability of these types of supports well known to all employees increase the likelihood that those with mental health disabilities will request what they need, fostering the mental health of their entire workforce.

As a business development specialist with the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, I’m familiar with the wonderful accommodation resources available through our Job Accommodation Network, and I’d encourage any employer who wants to learn more about mental health accommodations to check them out. There are many resources for more information on mental health disabilities, including guidance on where to find help and support at sites like, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Understanding mental wellness, both in the workplace and in everyday life, can help everyone achieve a healthy balance.

Betsy Kravitz is a Business Development Specialist with the Office of Disability Employment Policy





Su Salud Mental, Trastorno por Uso de Sustancias y los Beneficios Disponibles

Archivado en salud mental, los beneficios del empleado por Mark Connor el 25 de mayo, 2017

Imagine que su hijo está experimentando ansiedad y depresión y pensamientos suicidas. O se está recuperando de un trastorno alimenticio y necesite tratamiento en una instalación residencial. Luego te dicen que tienes que pagar deducibles y copagos que su cobertura de salud laboral comprende normalmente para otras reclamaciones médicas. Antes de que usted lo sepa, estos gastos al bolsillo están añadiendo hasta miles de dólares que simplemente no tienen.

Lamentablemente, estos son los escenarios reales que los asesores de beneficios en la administración de seguros del departamento de trabajo han oído hablar recientemente.

Pero la buena noticia para estos trabajadores - y usted - es que una ley federal llamada Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act ofrece protecciones. En la mayoría de los casos, los requisitos financieros (tales como copagos, deducibles, coaseguro o máximos fuera-de-bolsillo) y limitaciones de tratamientos en un plan de salud debe ser comparables para beneficios a la salud tanto física como mental/adicciones a sustancias.

En estos dos casos, nuestros asesores de beneficios se pusieron en contacto con los planes de beneficios de los trabajadores para asegurarse de que cumplieran con la ley. Y ambos planes proporcionados por el empleador aceptó pagar los beneficios a que tienen derecho los trabajadores.

Así que, ¿qué se puede hacer para evitar que esto le suceda a usted?

  1. Conoce tus derechos. El Departamento de Trabajo tiene varios recursos para los trabajadores y sus familias que explican cómo funciona la paridad de salud mental. Usted puede encontrar las preguntas más frecuentes y publicaciones para ayudarle a aprender más.
  2. Obtenga más información. En un reciente charla de web titulado, “Make the Most of Your Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits”, hemos discutido las leyes que afectan a estos beneficios. También se cubrió beneficios disponibles bajo su plan de salud para solicitar información para ayudarle a determinar qué problemas de salud mental o trastorno por uso de sustancias puede haber. La charla de web proporciona consejos prácticos para presentar un reclamo de salud mental, incluso sus derechos a la información y a la apelación.
  3. Pregúntenos. Si usted está experimentando una situación con problemas de salud mental o trastorno por uso de sustancias por su plan del sector privado, póngase en contacto con uno de los asesores de beneficios de la EBSA en o llamando gratis al 866-444-3272. Si usted tiene seguro médico a través de otra fuente, este sitio tiene recursos que explican cómo se aplican las leyes de paridad para su cobertura de salud.

Estamos aquí para ayudar, pero también usted puede ser su mejor defensor. Este mes de mayo durante el mes de la concientización sobre la Salud Mental, sacar el máximo provecho del beneficio de su salud mental y trastorno por uso de sustancias. Conozca sus recursos, conocer sus derechos, y sepan qué hacer para obtener los beneficios que le corresponden.

Mark Connor es el director de la Oficina de Extensión, Educación y Asistencia del departamento de administración de seguridad de beneficios para empleados.

Photo Caption: La ley protege la cobertura sanitaria de salud mental y adicción.


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I suffer from this terrible illness. The stigma attached to mental illness is well and alive in the workplace.

Good article,

Great insights and nuggets of wisdom.

Yes I agree with this. It is sad that big companies still manage to get around the "rules"! And fire people rather than accommodate their disabilities. How will that improve the situation?? Then when you take steps in the system, it appears you are Black balled. We have a long ways to go in making this a reality. We may have taken some steps towards improvement, but we need to look and see who we are leaving behind. Remember there are MANY invisible disabilities.

Interesting but I have not been allowed to return to work with only five years to full, 30 years retirement. Doctor cleared and VA and OWCP can state no reason. Masters degree in Health Services Management and BSN and multiple vacancies produce nothing-over 30 applications. Disabled or perceived to be are not welcome

It's good to see the Department of Labor encouraging employers to learn about "mental health accommodations" for employees struggling to manage serious mental illnesses. However, as some previous commenters point out, employees who seek mental health support services run the risk that some employers may respond unfairly by firing them or reducing their hours. Why? Employees with disabilities may cost employers more in health care services and they may be more difficult to manage than people without disabilities. Mental illness also carries stigma in our society. Because of this type of vulnerability, the DoL and other government agencies need to provide workers with avenues of appeal and other protections including proactive oversight of discriminatory employment practices.
-- K. Polzer
Center on Capital & Social Equity -
Arlington Mental Health Alliance -

I see too many times associates that are "let go" due to their disabilities of not being able to cope with their subordinates when they could have easily went through programs that the company offers for rehabilitation. Mental Illness is a treatable disease but most companies would rather dismiss than treat because it takes the productivity out of the bottom line worth.