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The Insurance Nerd: Mental Health Awareness

Tony Stark in the MCU was always a really confident guy. That is, until the after events of the first Avengers movie. When we see Tony again in Iron Man 3, he’s a hot paranoid mess. The great Ironman, “billionaire genius playboy philanthropist,” is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For the 7.8% of Americans who will experience PTSD in their life, and the 1 in 5 who will experience some type of mental illness, it’s easy to identify with Tony. These illnesses are hard to live with, and they wreak all kinds of havoc on our lives, from our interpersonal relationships to our professions to our ability to do daily tasks. Approximately 4% of Americans this year will experience a severe mental illness that substantially interferes or limits one or more major life activity.

As the story of Tony Stark exemplifies, even someone who “has it all” may struggle with mental health issues. Even if that person doesn’t happen to be Ironman and to have flown with a missile into outer space to save the planet, still we see the rich and famous struggle as well as the poor and unknown, and everyone in between. If it’s not you, someone you know is living with mental illness today.

What can we do? If you do not deal with a mental illness yourself, stay aware of those around you. Telltale signs are dramatic shifts in their activities such as disappearance, acting erratically, seeming off their game. That’s when they may need you to check in.

If you are close to someone with a mental illness, see what you can do to help. They may need help with simple, day to day activities. They may need the same TLC you would give a person with a chronic physical illness. If they are in a deep depression, they may need the same kind of help you might offer someone recovering from surgery: help with chores, bringing in a meal, or helping them make phone calls and scheduling doctor appointments. Try to remember, it’s not their fault they have a mental illness.

If you have a mental illness, it is best to see a mental health professional for a diagnosis and to establish a treatment plan. This is scary to a lot of people. It’s hard to admit that you need this kind of help. Try to remember, it’s NOT your fault you have a mental illness. There are many resources to help, some of which may be available through your health insurance or other benefits.

If you don’t know how your health insurer covers mental health, you can check your coverage documents, call the number on the back of your ID card, or ask a friend or family member to make the call for you. Stay close, though, because they may need to verify that they are able to give that person the information.

Other resources to find out about your mental health benefits include your company’s HR department and/or your employer’s health insurance agent. Consider telehealth visits to start, if the idea of going out of your home is too overwhelming.

Many group life and disability carriers offer value-added benefits, such as call-in counseling centers that can help point you in the right direction. Also, if you have a serious mental illness that requires you to be off work for a time, you may be eligible to file a disability claim if your employer offers that coverage. It’s always good to stay aware of your benefits and have the phone numbers for insurance carriers and agents in a safe place. If you have a serious mental illness crisis arise, it will NOT be a good time to scramble to get all of that together.

Tony Stark was in a bad place, and he had to go through some other things while he was trying to work through his PTSD. Eventually, he was able to live with his illness, through support from Pepper Potts, his friend James Rhodes (aka War Machine) and some of the Avengers. You, too, do not need to go through this alone.

I hope this article helps you have some resources to help if you or a loved one who is living with mental illness. In the words of Carrie Fisher, “…if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”

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