Monday, November 23, 2009

Don't Smile (...at least not on Facebook)



A Canadian woman lost her disability benefits because her insurer found her smiling, and vacationing, face up on her Facebook page. See details Here.

The article notes
:

"In the moment I'm happy, but before and after I have the same problems" as before, she said.

B--- said that on her doctor's advice, she tried to have fun, including nights out at her local bar with friends and short getaways to sun destinations, as a way to forget her problems.

She also doesn’t understand how Manulife accessed her photos because her Facebook profile is locked and only people she approves can look at what she posts.

It kind of reminds me of Roy's post: Wipe that smile off your face. Thanks to Meg for the link!

18 comments:

Aqua said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lofa said...

I've read several news articles and researched for additional details before coming to a conclusion.

I'm sorry to say this, but it sounds like to me that this woman is just lazy. Anyone who really had a depression [or other mental] problem would NOT be posting photos on facebook, much less continuing to post photos on facebook. This whole "I have a depression problem" is just one that ANYONE can fake.

Now as for the argument of how facebook profiles should have been locked and private... there is NO such thing as keeping things "safe" and locked on the net. ANYTHING that gets posted or sent [yes that includes EMAIL] through the net STAYS on the net. I've known this simple FACT for years.

As for the insurance company being "in the wrong" to snoop and discontinue her benefits... I'm sorry, but they have every right to know if someone is handing them a line a sh!t just to get free money out of the deal. There ARE people out there who REALLY do need and deserve to have health insurance, but don't get it because of individuals like this woman who make it bad for everyone else. I commend the insurance company for buckling down and I wish that other leeching individuals would get caught and cut off too.

Bottom line: it doesn't pay to be a thief, liar, lazy, money moocher. Let this be a lesson for anyone who thinks it's ok to suck on the system while others pay their hard earned money for it. IBM would be wise to not allow the woman to come back to the job. Instead, they should tell her to take a hike, as this story I'm sure will have some sort of bad reflection on the corporation. If this woman is capable of going to a beach weekly and capable of going to night clubs to see male dancers, then she's most certainly capable of working a normal job like a normal human being.

Don't feel sorry for con artists. They're good at sucking people dry of their money.

itsjustme said...

Lofa, I think you are being a little harsh and judgemental. I have major depression and also have a ton of pictures of me on FB with my friends, smiling, laughing, dancing, etc. Granted, I’m not on disabilty. I work full-time. I’m able to have those pictures because my insurance pays (partially) for me to be in therapy. For the most part, I’m feeling better but I still occasionnally have days when I feel really depressed and don’t want to get out of bed. I won’t answer my phone for days and just stay in bed. So, just because this woman has a few happy pictures doesn’t mean she’s lazy or she’s a con artist. Maybe it means that the insurance money is well spent and she’s starting to get better. I’m not completely niave. I know she could be taking advantage of the system but there are other possibilities to consider. We don’t know her or all the facts. I just know from my personal experience, her explaination is feasible.

Willow's Bridge said...

Lofa, when I was in a depression ..the only thing I did do was internet related. It was a way to connect with people without requiring the energy needed to be vocal or to listen or to 'feel' the energy of the person I was relating to.
My depression was related to medical conditions ...for which I sought out support groups on line ..and shared many pictures ...
No one knew how depressed I was, except my family and my doctor. My pastor, friends from church all saw a happy, cheerful and upbeat me. I'd come home and crash/burn and not be able to get out of bed for more than 2 hours at a time until time to go back to church.

To this day, no one knows I went through that depression. I still get comments about my smile and how it always encouraged them. If only they knew what was behind that mask and what went on inside the 4 walls of my house.

jessa said...

I read about this on Consumerist. I had to stop reading the comments because they made me so mad. Some of them were sympathetic to this woman, but for every comment of sympathy there were two chastising this woman for "gaming the system". Even the sympathetic comments often seemed, to me, off base.

I don't know anything about this woman's situation. I don't think there is enough information to decide one way or another in this whether or not she is "gaming the system." What makes me mad is the assumption that smiling pictures on facebook mean she is not disabled by depression. Smiling says nothing about whether or not she is depressed. Perhaps she is smiling to put on an act, to be socially acceptable. Perhaps it is a genuine smile. Doesn't matter; it isn't enough information. Even if it is a genuine smile, she still might want to hang herself three seconds later. Even if it is a genuine smile and she is relatively happy for a few hours or a few days, that still doesn't mean she is well enough to hold a job. To be well enough to hold down a job means there has to be some consistency in one's wellness. If her wellness is unpredictable and she is batshit crazy between short episodes of wellness, she still can't hold a job. It is a rare job that would allow for such sporadic attendance. If she is kind of okay some days and can't get out of bed on other days, even to call in, that isn't well enough to hold a job. Depression is not always consistent, it can ebb and flow, in terms of severity. If she is in a brief state of milder depression, she may be able to work in the moment, but saying she is able to hold a job assumes that her depression is always in this milder state. You cannot know from observing someone only for a moment or only through facebook pictures (who is going to post or even take pictures of them in a more severely depressed state? of themselves attempting suicide? of them crying for 12 hours on end?) the full shape of her (or his) depression. If that milder state lasts for one day out of every week, and she is plastered to my bed the rest of the week, she cannot hold a job.

Am I explaining this well? I feel like I am not, which is perhaps why some people don't understand it. Being "able to work" in a particular moment does not correlate to being able to hold down a job on an ongoing basis.

Also, even the people who are commenting sympathetically to this woman often say that the fact that she is smiling in these pictures means she is getting better, that being off on disability is helping her and aiding in her recovery. Based on a few pictures alone, I don't think we have any more evidence of that than we have evidence that she isn't really too depressed to work. This makes the same assumption (that she really is okay, not too severely depressed), but gives her the benefit of the doubt by legitimizing her being on disability while being okay.

I make no claims about this woman's particular situation one way or the other. I don't think there is enough information gleaned from facebook photos to do so. I also don't think it is out of bounds for insurance companies to use the resources available to them to make sure they aren't being "gamed." However, I do think it is wrong of them to make such unsupported claims "based" on that information they glean.

Anonymous said...

What if it's the case that working full-time for that woman is incompatible with mental health? That working makes her worse, and that by NOt working she is able to maintain some kind of wellness. It works this way for many physical illnesses, so why wouldn't it work this way for mental illnesses as well?

Jessa's point about needing to be consistent at work is also really true. If I could not show up for work on a routine basis-- if I was unable to work several days a month-- then I would be unable to do my job. I think that it works this way for many physical illnesses as well, i.e. the problem is that things ebb and flow. If you can't consistently show up to work and then WORK (i.e., be productive), then sometimes this means that you need to go on disability....because most jobs require you to be consistent, dependable, able to work your scheduled shifts, etc.

Also...I don't think that depression is just about an inability to feel pleasure, feeling "sad", etc. The symptoms that seem to stay with me always-- no matter how well I feel -- are cognitive. It is really really hard to think. I was a nursing student for 3 years. I left that program for many reasons, but one reason that I left that program was because I saw that I could not do that job because I could not THINK. I came very close a few times to making very very big medical errors (mainly drug errors...I also often found it very hard to think through assessments...and because I felt so detached from thigns it was really hard to care enough to pay attention to anything), and it was scary.

I am really lucky because 1) I have a job right now that does not require me to think, focus, concentrate, etc, and showing up is often enough (but the pay is bad), 2) often the worse I feel the more agitated I feel, and agitation often for me= an ability do a lot of physical work, and I work in a job where this kind of physical stamina is really helpful. But if I was working as a nurse right now, or in any kind of white collar profession that required me to be able to focus/concentrate/problem solve/think, I think that I would be probably be on disability right now as well.

Anonymous said...

Re: lofa's comment:"Anyone who really had a depression [or other mental] problem would NOT be posting photos on facebook, much less continuing to post photos on facebook".

First, many, many people with severe and chronic depression are able to periodically have fun. In fact, there is a subtype of depression (atypical depression) where mood reactivity is a symptom.

I cannot believe how ignorant some of the commenters on the original article were about what it is like to be severely depressed and what it takes to try to help oneself get out of a major depressive episode.

It appears that the world would have all of us depressed people just lay in bed and give up. Those of us who try to help ourselves with whatever means are available (exercise, being with friends, vacations, communicating with others on the internet etc.) must just be faking it.

I cry "bullshit". I bet most people who are depressed don't look depressed much of the time. They do not call it an "invisible disability" for nothing.

I know I work hard to maintain a "public" (read: well adjusted, happy) persona so others don't run from me when they meet me.

What people I meet can't see are the thoughts inside my head telling me to hang myself, or stab myself, all the thoughts of self-hatred, hopelessness, and helplessness.

Despite these I continue to try to push myself to do things as much as I can. For me, if I had to stop doing, stop trying to be the happy person I so often pretend to be, so my insurance company would not recind my disability, I'd probably give in to my suicidal urges.

If no medicine works, or no therapy works, what else is there, but to try to add as many positive activities to my life as possible? How the hell is my depression helped by avoiding anything that might be fun?

...too afraid to share my identity

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the good old pre Facebook days when a bunch of us sat around a board table discussing ways to determine if an off sick employee was really sick. One suggestion was that a 'concerned' colleague could drop by with soup and to say hello and report back on the actual condition of the person off sick.
See how easy Facebook makes life? You don't have to make soup!

S said...

I think the investigation is totally stupid. Depressed people can like the internet just as much as anyone else can. And who takes depressed looking pics of themselves? Of course she's smiling and trying to LIVE, what should she snap pictures of? Herself laying in bed crying? Cutting her arms? Should she snap pictures of the internal pain she's feeling and post it on facebook?

Anonymous said...

and in the "good old days, the severely depressed person would have sucked it up, been polite, and projected a happy face for the "kind" soul bringing her soup. She may even have (heaven forgive her", had a bit of fun and enjoyment throughout the visit.

...and when her friend departed, she would start thinking of ways to kill herself...but the friend couldn't see that.

Abby said...

I don't know....I can relate to being severely, suicidally depressed and still managing to respond to (some) positive events, activities, people. Still, this article struck me and frankly, I was disgusted. I think what offended me was the assumption that this woman used insurance-based monies to take her vacation. Can someone who's depressed be entitled to go on a vacation, perhaps even ordered to go on vacation, and enjoy parts of it? Yes. But...should she be allowed to use insurance money paid to her for not working because of her inability to do so -- No, I don't think so. I can't afford to go on a tropical vacation (I also feel generally uninclined to do so when in the midst of a depressive episode, but that's just me, apparently) and I'm still working. She shouldn't get a free ride just because she's depressed as shit. None of the rest of us did.

That said, maybe her parents took her on vacation and paid for it. We really don't know. However, if they didn't, and if she can afford lavish trips without working...then she doesn't need the insurance money. There are plenty of other people who need it equally if not more who are fighting their damndest to get it -- and will use it for what their salaries used to - food, clothing, rent, childcare. Not bikinis and martinis on the beach.

It's an argument of values.

Lockup Doc said...

I've read about this and don't want to speculate about whether this woman was feigning or exaggerating her symptoms.

As a psychiatrist what I want to point out it that it is impossible to rule out a mental illness or assess whether someone is still depressed or disabled by looking at a few pictures.

It's why when patients come into a psychiatrist's office the history is so important. Looking at a person for a snapshot in time is only one of many pieces of information.

That some insurance company believes they can determine if someone is disabled by depression because they seemed to enjoy a few events is ridiculous!

talesofacrazypsyhmajor said...

Wow lofa, what an ignorant bunch of comments.

I've had my share of mental health issues, but you'd never know it from my facebook. That's not the part of myself I want to show everyone and I myself don't really want to be looking at it.
If I pretend hard enough sometimes I can forget for a little bit.

The days when I sit in bed crying all day, I'm not thinking of taking photos to update facebook. Having mental health problems doesn't mean every single second is 100% unbearable. If it were I'd have killed myself already. there are good bits in there. As someone else said consistency is an issue. I can function really well for bits of times and then fall apart without warning.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't want to be too judgmental because I have a mood disorder myself and I know how it disabled me. But still, I work in an area of the legal field where I see a lot of malingering and the stories always seem to go the same way: The employee gets a doctor to write out a slip saying she suffers from MDD (it's probably only a milder depression because it has not been present for 6 months), gets a prescription, and then applies for the Company's long-term disability package. She's given, say, 25 weeks of coverage. The employee then stays out of work that entire period of time and then returns to work the day the benefits are stopped. ISN'T THAT CONVENIENT? She didn't need just 6 weeks. That never happens. But she's taking vacations and living every part of her life normally except the getting-her-butt-into-work part.

With smaller companies with no benefits, the employees always return to work quickly.

I'm not saying this woman isn't disabled or that she's not severely depressed, or that she's a scammer. How would I know? I'm merely saying that some people read the benefits coverage handbook too closely and then feel they HAVE TO use it as a blueprint to get psychiatric treatment. Plus, the line about how her doctor had prescribed having fun is just too stupid for words.

Anonymous said...

A doctor "prescribing" fun, is the kind of doctor a depressed person needs. "Prescribing" fun; via encouraging people who are depressed to do the things they love to do, be with people they like being with, taking a vacation to help them relax, Etc., is encouraging and prescribing a type of behavioural therapy.

The worst thing I can do as a severely depressed person is doing nothing, it only makes me more depressed.

It blows my mind that people seem to have this notion that if you were truly depressed you would just be sitting around waiting to die.

Dr's do prescribe "fun", and for a very good reason. It makes the hell depressed people struggle with on a daily basis, surviveable.

Anonymous said...

I have a difficult time believing that a long break from work is helpful to people who suffer from major depression. A short period of time, yes, but not long term disability. The less structure I had the more I lay in bed with the lights out. The more I was told I couldn't help it, the more I didn't try.

I have real concerns about doctors who reinforce helplessness.

If you can frolick on the beach, and you can play around on the internet, and hang out with your friends, then you are funtional enough to work.

Even in my most depressed times, I could always make it to the things I wanted to make it to - like my therapist's office, etc. I wasn't intentionally not attending to the stuff I didn't want to attend to, I just believed I couldn't, that I was too ill. Enabling people in their depression isn't going to lead to mental wellness. It's going to keep them stuck.

Anonymous said...

I remember when I was about 30 I became a people manager at work for the first time. By the time I was 30 I had had numerous major depressive episodes, some of which seemed to me to be as severe as depression can get.

There was a girl who was off work on LTD. I scoffed at her need to be off work for an extended period. My thinking was that if I can continue working and do all the things I need to do through severe depression she can too.

At 35 I became probably 2-3 times as depressed as I had ever been. I was shocked that depression could get so much worse than I had previously experienced, because I felt I barely survived some of those previous depressions.

I am ashamed thaat I judged the girl I worked with, but at the time I could not even conceptualize how someone could be more depressedx than me.

If you can work through your depression, and manage to do all you need to do while depressed. Good for you. I am glad you have that ability.

Do not however, judge others based on your being able to manage while depressed. Depression can get more severe and more debilitating, more life destroying, and job destroying than you can even imagine. You may feel you are as depressed as is possible, but I know it can get worse.

Seeing a person have fun, or go on a vacation, or visit with friends is not an indication they are able to work. For many with chronic and severe depression their mood is unpredictable/unstable. They have good days and bad days, good moments and hopeless moments.

Many of us have treatment resistant mood disorders, medications/therapy, nothings seems to be able to lift us enough for more than a short period of time. If I were to go back to work the stress and pressure of having to perform at an acceptible level(which for me would be a high level) would make me even more depressed than I am now. I do not believe I would survive if I became anymore depressed than I am now, so right now work is not an option, and would not be conducive to trying to help myself heal.

In my working life, I have been guilty of judging people's ability to work with depression based on how I was able to work when severely depressed...nothing prepared me for the fact that I was not as depressed as I could be. At the time I could not even comprehend being this depressed and having to leave work to survive my depression.

Even though I never mentioned my "judgements to the depressed girl at work, I wish I could apologize to the girl I so inappropriately judged for being off work.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think those paying for her long term disability have every right to look into this.

How long should someone get to claim they're depressed and be compensated to hang out at bars and the beach? Does she get to vacation until she "feels" like going back to work? What if she never "feels" like it? What if she only ever feels like going to the bar and the beach? Should the insurers continue to pay? That's b.s.