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What To Do If You're Considering Short-Term Disability Leave For Mental Health

Jan 14, 2020
By Christine Celio

Taking time off of work to recover from surgery or an injury is pretty common. But what do you do when your pain isn’t just physical? Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can often stand in the way of our work responsibilities. And sometimes, a personal day here and there isn’t enough time to fully heal. Short term disability leave may be a solution. Here is what you should know about short term disability leave for a mental health condition:

What is Short-Term Mental Health Disability Leave?

Short -term Mental Health disability leave is longer than your normal sick leave. Depending on your employer’s disability insurance and the state you live in, MHDL allows up to 6 months. Documentation of ongoing care for your mental health disability needs to be provided by a healthcare provider, usually a psychologist, psychiatrist, or primary care provider.

The amount that you are paid depends on your disability provider (i.e., the insurance company or state). The disability provider is the “in-between” for you and your employer and they don’t share your diagnosis with your employer. The disability insurance providers, not the PCPs, make the recommendation regarding if and when you can work and if you will get paid while on leave.

How can I be approved for short-term leave?

If you are not already under the care of a mental health provider, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with your regular primary care provider (PCP) as soon as you begin to experience debilitating distress or mental health symptoms. Early intervention is important so we can support your overall well-being.

If short-term disability leave is something you want considered, be sure to select a “standard” 30 min appointment time when scheduling with your primary care PCP in order to allow enough time for this initial meeting. Evaluation for a disability leave might entail more than one visit.

If you are currently in mental health treatment, that provider should be managing your leave. If, because of legal restrictions, e.g., your therapist is a Master’s level therapist, or is an EAP provider, your mental health provider is unable to complete the paperwork for leave, you will need to sign a mental health medical release form. this will ensure that your PCP can communicate about your care plan and get regular updates.

How does the assessment work?

Your PCP will complete an assessment to determine a diagnosis and understand the ways in which your symptoms may be impacting your ability to successfully function in your daily life.

In order to complete a thorough assessment, your PCP might request to meet with you more than once before offering a recommendation regarding leave. It’s important that you see your regular PCP so that this person can monitor your symptoms and follow-up on your care.

If you have not yet completed your annual physical, your PCP may request you complete one in order to assess your overall health, and to rule out medical causes underlying your symptoms.

Based on your symptoms, your PCP may request you complete various measures and questionnaires to determine current symptom status, functioning status, and to clarify diagnosis.

What can I expect from my PCP during my request for leave?

Because “disability” suggests a serious impairment, your PCP will need to complete a thorough assessment and offer recommendations based on the results of that assessment. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, these recommendations can include:

    • Additional forms of treatment:
      • Referral to psychotherapy or more intensive care as needed
      • Medication evaluation or reevaluations
    • Other forms of leave (i.e. PTO, leave w/o pay) or workplace accommodations
    • Disability leave, if appropriate, may be recommended to your employer’s short term disability insurance or the state disability insurance, who make the final determination as to whether disability leave is granted.

What will my PCP expect from me during my leave?

Active involvement in recommended treatment (typically meeting with an outpatient mental health provider or involvement in more intensive care).

  • Follow treatment plan developed with mental health provider and PCP, including regular attendance.
  • Regular check-ins with your PCP.
  • If referred to a non-One Medical treatment option, your PCP will ask you to complete a release of information form in order to facilitate communication between PCPs.
  • You will be expected to return to work by the designated date.
  • You are responsible for coordinating with your employer regarding important dates when applying for leave and plans to return to work.

Think you need to take a short-term mental health disability leave? We’re here to help you navigate the best care plan for you. Book an appointment today to learn more.

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Christine Celio

As a licensed clinical psychologist, Christine approaches patient care with empathy and a listening ear. She has a broad base of experience in clinical psychology and research, having taught in various academic settings and published articles in several academic journals. After earning her master's in sociology from Stanford, Christine coordinated clinical research studies at the Stanford School of Medicine. She went on to complete an additional master's in clinical psychology and received her PhD in clinical psychology from Loyola University Chicago. She completed residency and fellowship at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center and the San Francisco VA Medical Center/UCSF Center for Excellence in Primary Care. Christine is a board-certified psychologist.

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.