A supportive case manager and a successful mental health recovery

In recognition of both Mental Health Awareness Month and Disability Insurance Awareness Month, I want to share one of the many heartwarming mental health-related success stories we’ve gathered over the years. Mental health is one of the most-frequently filed claims1,  having become a prevalent condition in the workforce. Although it’s a prevalent condition, employers can implement strategies to mitigate the incidence of these types of claims.

This story comes from Workplace Possibilities’ mental health case manager Iva Wick. Iva’s professionalism and care helped one employee get through seemingly insurmountable barriers.

When personal life impacts work life
Before filing a disability claim, this employee grappled with depression and anxiety for many years. Then, in quick succession, she experienced a severe injury, divorce, death of close family members and eviction from her home. No longer able to focus or concentrate, she lost weight, couldn’t sleep, and she was beginning to have suicidal thoughts.

Iva’s role was to help keep the employee, the employer and the employee’s medical providers focused on a bright future, including the important goal of getting the employee back to work as soon as medically appropriate.

Iva and the employee talked frequently over the phone. After learning more about the employee and her situation, Iva asked her medical providers for specific medical information to help gauge when the employee might be able to return to work. When the employee became discouraged and threatened to quit her job, Iva convinced her to talk to her counselor and encouraged her to not make a drastic move while in a fragile state.

Driving successful outcomes
Just two months after Iva began working with her, the employee returned to work. Here are a few tips on how employers can help ensure successful outcomes for employees in similar situations:

  1. Look to a case manager to bring everyone’s attention and awareness to the goal of returning to work. Consult with your disability carrier to see what resources they can provide. Each party in the process has a vital function: medical providers help the employee recover, the supervisor can consult on job functions and day-to-day roles, and the carrier can help get everyone on the same page to help facilitate the employee’s recovery.
  2. Allow employees to return-to-work part time when possible. The case manager can help monitor the employee until full-time status is achieved, easing the burden for supervisors.
  3. Do not underestimate the importance of ongoing support, guidance and encouragement for employees who are out on a disability. Even if the original condition is physical in nature, employees who are off work for an extended period may suffer from depression and anxiety. If you are looking to improve employee morale, this is an effective strategy in your toolbox.

This story is one of our successes because the employee had access to the resources she needed and was supported by her employer in her quest to get better. A win-win for all involved.

May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, a time to educate employees on the need for disability protection. To learn more, download The Standard’s new white paper on encouraging enrollment, Educate And Engage: Connecting With Millennials About The Importance Of Disability Protection, as well as new infographics that discuss additional prevalent disabling conditions and how to reach at-risk employee populations.

1Council for Disability Awareness. 2013 Long Term Disability Claims Review. Available at http://www.disabilitycanhappen.org/research/CDA_LTD_Claims_Survey_2013.asp. Accessed March 18, 2014.

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