Let's get in front of mental health issues. Don't let dated stigmas and misinformation stop you from learning more.

The conversation about mental health issues has come a long way. People who suffered from mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disease and others were told things like, “Exercise more,” “You have nothing to be depressed about,” or the even less helpful, “Get over it already!” While society has progressed somewhat in its thinking, there is still stigma attached to mental health disorders, which causes many sufferers not to seek help from the medical establishment or accommodations from their workplaces.

“RBC Insurance is working hard to ensure that we have continued conversation about mental illness to help alleviate remaining stigma. We’re not there yet, but we want to raise awareness that mental illness is a disability just like any other disability,” says Maria Winslow, Senior Director, Life & Health, RBC Insurance.

Here are seven myths about mental health disorders:

Myth 1: “This is all my fault because I am weak.”

47 per cent of Canadians feel that depression is not a true disability.

Ban the word “weak” from your thinking. (In fact, you are very strong to cope with a very difficult problem.) Mental disorders are biological, not due to a lack of willpower or character flaws. Anxiety, for example, might be caused by chemical imbalances, genetics or environmental effects such as chronic stress or trauma.1 Depression is brought on by a complex interplay between all or some of the following: “Chemical imbalances, faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems,” according to Harvard Health Publishing.2

Myth 2: “I need to hide this from people; no one else has it and I’ll be judged negatively.”

If you think you are all alone with your mental health problems, think again. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about 50 per cent of the population will have or have had a mental illness by the age of 40.3 A recent RBC Insurance survey found that 30 per cent of Canadians have taken time off of work due to their own mental disability, and seven per cent have taken time off to help a family member or friend who has a mental disability.4

Myth 3: “Mental health issues are not a disability.”

Is mental health a disability? In the RBC Insurance survey, they discovered that 47 per cent of Canadians feel that depression is not a true disability. However, as mentioned before, mental health issues are rooted in biological processes. Psychiatric disorders are different from organic brain damage or learning disabilities. They refer to when mental illness gets in the way of productivity and daily life, and as such, are considered disabilities.5 “Having a mental illness is the same as having a physical injury. Would you judge someone who has to take time off for cancer treatment? No, of course not. This is on the same plane,” says Winslow.

Myth 4: “I can’t go for help because my disability insurance doesn’t cover mental health issues.”

It’s important to know that most disability insurance policies do cover mental health. A few exclude it. So when you’re looking to purchase a policy, make sure you have a conversation with your advisor about what is and isn’t covered. Make sure the policy’s definition of “disability” doesn’t exclude mental health as a reason for paying. “RBC Insurance is the leading disability insurance carrier in Canada. Disability insurance replaces a portion of your income when you are unable to work due to a disability, whether it’s physical in nature or associated with a mental illness,” explains Winslow.

Myth 5: “All disability insurance is the same.”

Disability insurance is not one-size-fits-all. Discuss your needs and goals with your insurance advisor. When you are purchasing the policy, you must decide how long you want to be covered: only two years or continuously until age 65? There are different options to suit your budget, income, desired coverage period, age and other needs. The two-year option may be the most affordable, but consider this: What if you still need the coverage after the insurance expires? Once that two years is up, you can’t renew. Do you have enough savings to cover expenses?

Myth 6: “Wait until you have a problem, then buy disability insurance.”

Disability insurance should be purchased when you are young and healthy, because you are more apt to get the coverage and may be charged less. If you wait until you are in the middle of a crisis, you will not be eligible for coverage.

There may be instances where you can get a disability insurance policy after being diagnosed with an illness but that particular illness would be excluded.

Myth 7: “I can’t take time off from work; my boss would never understand.”

Based on the stigma that still exists around mental health issues, 38 per cent of Canadians who responded to the survey are worried that taking time off from work to recover from mental illness would negatively impact their security/position within their company. And in fact, 25 per cent couldn’t take time off work for a mental disability, because their workplace did not approve it.

Contact your human resources department to learn about their policy and see if they can connect you with someone who can explain what your options are.

Winslow says, “Taking that time to focus on yourself may help you get better sooner and become more productive.”

For any questions you have on disability insurance coverage contact an RBC Life Insurance Advisor close to you.

Sources:

1. “Anxiety Disorders,” Cleveland Clinic. Accessed 7/4/19 my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9536-anxiety-disorders

2. “What Causes Depression?” Harvard Health Publishing. Accesses: 7/4/19 health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

3. “Fast Facts about Mental Illness,” Canadian Mental Health Association. Accessed 7/4/19 cmha.ca/fast-facts-about-mental-illness

4. RBC Insurance Disability Survey by Ipsos, January 2018

5. “What is Psychiatric Disability and Mental Illness?” Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Accessed: 7/4/19 cpr.bu.edu/resources/reasonable-accommodations/what-is-psychiatric-disability-and-mental-illness/

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.