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Mental Health Resources Now

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What You Need to Know

  • SSDI benefits can help but are often hard to get.
  • Many people have no idea what the MHPAEA is.
  • NAMI is great place to start for people who need local service providers.

For many Americans, the increase in COVID-19 vaccinations and lessening of restrictions has meant a return to previous routines. But for the millions who suffer from a mental health condition, which may have begun during or been exacerbated by the circumstances of the pandemic, the obstacles to treatment and recovery remain daunting.

Nearly one in five Americans lives with a mental illness, but far fewer get the treatment they need or are aware of the resources available for treatment. With that number likely to increase as more Americans, known as COVID-19 long-haulers, are diagnosed with neurological conditions after contracting the virus, it’s imperative that we raise awareness of the supports and resources available for all those managing a mental disability.

SSDI

One of the most important resources for any American dealing with a life-altering disability is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but former workers with severe mental disorders have historically run into difficulties applying for disability benefits.

Of applicants filing for benefits because of a mental illness that they believed affected their ability to maintain employment, the Social Security Administration (SSA) approved 5.2% fewer claims  in 2019 when compared with the number for the previous year.

These numbers may indicate a lack of institutional understanding about the complexity, debilitating nature and treatment of mental disorders and, in some cases, a lack of awareness by those who are disenfranchised as the result of their illness. But SSDI is available to all those with a medical condition who meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability, which includes mental and neurological disorders, who are unable to work for more than a year as a result.

The MHPAEA

Health insurance coverage is another important consideration for individuals living with a mental disability.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) passed in 2008 bars insurance providers from imposing annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits that are less favorable than the limits for medical or surgical benefits.

Despite this and other pieces of legislation, many Americans are unaware of the extent of their legal entitlement to behavioral health coverage, and the laxity of enforcement around mental health parity makes obtaining coverage all the more challenging. For this reason, it’s important to understand what treatment options are covered and how to best utilize existing health benefits.

Local Resources

There are many great organizations that offer this information and other guidance for individuals with mental disabilities. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a wide array of resources to help those in need access their benefits, locate service providers and navigate choices while living with a mental disability. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is another valuable knowledge base, and both organizations provide contact information for local advocates and assistance.

The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, but for those individuals living with mental illnesses, the challenges they face have remained unchanged or worsened. If anything positive has emerged from this public health crisis, it’s a newfound emphasis on the importance of behavioral health and accessible treatment for mental conditions.

By raising awareness of resources such as SSDI and mental health organizations like NAMI and NIMH, we can help individuals with mental health conditions access the help they need, when they need it.


Mary Dale Walters Mary Dale Walters is a senior vice president at Allsup Inc., a company that helps people with Social Security Disability Insurance claims, health insurance coverage changes and the Medicare plan selection process.

(Image: Shutterstock)