Be warned: Don’t smile if you are depressed!

Funny how a small snippet can trigger off a stream of thought, isn’t it? This morning, as I am oft apt to do, I read the “odd-spot” in The Age newspaper. It read:

Monday November 23, 2009

A Canadian woman on long-term sick leave for major depression says she lost her benefits after her insurance agent found photos of her on Facebook in which she appeared to be having fun, including at a Chippendales bar show and on a holiday.

I sat there and thought to myself, “no – they couldn’t! Not based on one or two smiley photos!?”

See, funny thing is if this was a US incident, I’d be all like “yeah, well, what do you expect from the world’s most corrupted health system?” but it was in Quebec!

So, off for more research, and we find this:

A Quebec woman on long-term sick leave is fighting to have her benefits reinstated after her employer’s insurance company cut them, she says, because of photos posted on Facebook.

Nathalie Blanchard, shown here on a beach holiday during her sick leave.
Nathalie Blanchard, shown here on a beach holiday during her sick leave. (Facebook)

Nathalie Blanchard, 29, has been on leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Que., for the last year and a half after she was diagnosed with major depression.

The Eastern Townships woman was receiving monthly sick-leave benefits from Manulife, her insurance company, but the payments dried up this fall.

When Blanchard called Manulife, the company said that “I’m available to work, because of Facebook,” she told CBC News this week.

She said her insurance agent described several pictures Blanchard posted on the popular social networking site, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party and on a sun holiday — evidence that she is no longer depressed, Manulife said.

Blanchard said she notified Manulife that she was taking a trip, and she’s shocked the company would investigate her in such a manner and interpret her photos that way.

“In the moment I’m happy, but before and after I have the same problems” as before, she said.

Blanchard 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.

Insurer confirms it uses Facebook

Her lawyer Tom Lavin said Manulife’s investigation was inappropriate.

“I don’t think for judging a mental state that Facebook is a very good tool,” he said, adding that he has requested another psychiatric evaluation for Blanchard.

“It’s not as if somebody had a broken back and there was a picture of them carrying …a load of bricks,” Lavin said. “My client was diagnosed with a major depression. And there were pictures of her on Facebook, in a party or having a good time. It could be that she was just trying to escape.”

Manulife wouldn’t comment on Blanchard’s case, but in a written statement sent to CBC News, the insurer said: “We would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook.” It confirmed that it uses the popular social networking site to investigate clients.

Insurance companies must weigh information found on such sites, said Claude Distasio, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association.

“We can’t ignore it, wherever the source of the information is,” she said. “We can’t ignore it.”

Blanchard estimated she’s lost thousands of dollars in benefits since Manulife changed her claim

Source: CBCNews

Obviously we do not know the full extent of the Manulife (if any) investigation nor do we know the full version of the story as both parts of the story have not been revealed, but one must ask — WTF?

Are we honestly saying that Health Insurance Companies are so mis-informed, nay, so backwards in the thinking and dealing of Mental illnesses? Is Manulife’s policy seriously that if you are depressed that you must be hiding in a dark room and crying through twelve boxes of tissues a day otherwise they consider you to be happy?

How can we deal with mental illnesses if this is the type of FUD that powerful “Health” organisations are promoting?

I will write more on this … but not right now.

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2 thoughts on “Be warned: Don’t smile if you are depressed!”

  1. This is depressing on several levels that I’m not going to discuss, but WTF? So many people out there have little or no understanding of the cycles of depression or how some people “act” to cover it up.
    Facebook’s privacy settings are a real sham. I’m considering shutting my acct. down.

    1. The privacy settings are shammy, but there are ways of locking things down — hell, mine is so locked down, that even my direct url shows up as “does not exist” unless you are a direct friend of mine.

      Regardless of that though, there is always the issue of people screen capturing or deep-linking content that circumvents most of those privacy filters as they are based on higher levels of access (e.g. you may make a photo album private for friends only – but if someone knows how to direct link to the url of the photo, they can pass that out to anyone and thus the security is by passsed).

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