The death by suicide of Cheslie Kryst was a big wake up call. Mental illness is prevalent amongst Americans now more than ever. According to data collected by Mental Health America, Texas is the second most prevalent state for mental illness. As a Texas employee, you should be aware of the resources available to you.
Historically, many cultures have viewed mental illness as a form of religious punishment or demonic possession. Negative attitudes toward mental illness persisted into the 18th century in the United States, leading to stigmatization of mental illness, and confinement of mentally ill individuals. As a society, we still have negative views of and oftentimes downplay the severity mental disabilities. In fact, I just watched an episode of the Bachelor where one contestant mocked another because she suffered from ADHD. I was disgusted by such a display of ignorance, but at the same time, was proud that mental health was being talked about on a such a widely televised platform.
I say that to say that although there are individuals who still have negative attitudes toward mental illness, it is no longer a taboo topic that we must be hush hush about. In 2021, approximately 19% of adults experienced a mental illness, which is equivalent to 47 million Americans. In addition, 7.67% of adults reported substance abuse disorders in 2021. Approximately 10.7 million or 4.34% of adults experienced severe suicidal thoughts in 2021. These are just the statistics for adults. Children also experienced high rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.
The past two years have brought on a lot of uncertainty, difficulty, and isolation for many Americans. It’s important to take advantage of the laws designed to help employees treat mental disabilities. For example, if you suffer from a mental disability and you work for an employer with fifteen or more employees, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Texas Labor Code, you can request a reasonable accommodation that would allow you to perform the essential functions of your job. Additionally, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), if you work for an employer that has fifty or more employees and you have worked 1250 hours during the 12 months prior to your request for leave under the FMLA. Depending on your health insurance, you may also be eligible for short- or long-term disability benefits if you are medically diagnosed with a mental illness, including anxiety or depression.
Oftentimes, employees are afraid to take advantage of the rights they are guaranteed under the ADA, FMLA, or the Texas Labor Code. However, it is important to note that these laws have anti-retaliation provisions that prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee who requests either a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or the Texas Labor Code or leave under the FMLA. If you need help navigating your rights under these laws, feel free to give my office a call to schedule a consultation.
For mental health or substance use emergencies where your safety or the safety of others is at immediate risk, dial 9-1-1. If you feel you are experiencing a mental health or substance use emergency but your safety or the safety of others is not at immediate risk, please contact: