From the Editor
by Vicki Leeper
Recently I have been looking at mental illness and how it is regarded as a disability. Depression in these times seems to be very prevalent and certainly at some points is very much a disability. But rather than think of a person being “disabled” perhaps its just that they are not getting the help they need to function well.
A lot of barriers get in the way of getting that help. Cost is a major factor, as therapy and training is expensive and rarely covered under medical plans. A good rule of thumb is an out of pocket expense of $100 per visit. Medication may be the next step and can be expensive if there is no prescription coverage with insurance although some meds are now generic and becoming more affordable.
Certainly those with serious mental illness, such as major depression, schizophrenia or certain degrees of bipolar illness are unable to hold a job and should qualify for disability benefits under the law. But milder cases may only need some accommodations at school or work, perhaps something as simple as adjusting working hours to take advantage of the best times of day. Because it is an invisible disability, it can be hard to get these accommodations.
Disability services at school or work may be viewed at as an unfair advantage over other people. But it’s important to remember that these services are designed to level the playing field, not grant unfair advantage. Think about it like someone who has broken an arm and may need help taking notes, or someone who is hearing impaired requiring a sign language interpreter, then it can indeed be viewed as leveling the playing field.
Accommodations for mental illnesses are the same. However, they are trickier to see. You might not be able to see severe test anxiety or ADHD, and accommodations like extra time testing or testing in a private location gives these individuals equal opportunity to succeed.
Certainly a good place to start is with a healthy diet, taking supplements, getting enough exercise and sleep. These things are good for anybody, but especially for people with mild anxiety and depression. Easy things to adapt to your lifestyle to help a person cope. My favorite coping mechanism is postponing my worries for a later time. Probably the only time procrastination is good for me!
~ Vicki Leeper