LET OUR ADVOCATES HELP YOU WITH YOUR CLAIM MENTAL HEALTH AND SSI/SSDI BENEFITS
In Kankakee, Illinois, in the mid-1800s, a woman with my very own name (Elizabeth Packard) took the first step in her epic and inspiring journey of reforming the legal rights of mental health patients all across the U.S. In 1860, Packard’s husband had her committed to the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane based on his personal observations that she seemed “slightly insane” to him. At this time, it was considered legal for a woman to be institutionalized at her husband’s suggestion, and Packard spent three full years in an asylum until her oldest children advocated for her release. She went on to publish books supporting the rights of married women and mental health patients, and, within her lifetime, four states revised their commitment laws, and Illinois passed a married women’s property law.
According to recent studies, 80% of Americans report experiencing immense stress when it comes to their work and finances. Since prolonged stress has been shown to increase the risk of several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and depression, it’s crucial that we as individuals find a way to better our emotional and mental states. If you or someone you know has been struggling emotionally, you’re not alone. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index shows statistically significant declines in overall feelings of well-being among adults in the U.S. since 2014. While some cases are less severe than others, certain conditions and health issues can affect a person’s ability to work, which in turn, only amplifies their stress levels. Cycles like these continue, and people with emotional or mental conditions worsen over time. If you are experiencing some of your own struggles, there are ways to get help. Seeking out a counselor or therapist is always a smart first step, and we have many great resource partners we can recommend. Additionally, if your health issues are keeping you from holding a traditional job, our advocates can help you determine if you are eligible to receive SSI/SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration recognizes a wide variety of disorders as having the potential to cause long term disability and warrant financial benefits. Some of these disorders include dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety and personality disorders, development disorders, and many others.
• The mental disorder must prevent you from doing any work which you have done up until now. • The mental disorder must render you unable to reasonably be trained for other work, which is available at the time of your disability. • The mental disorder must be expected to be long term, lasting at least a year. Because the diagnosis of many mental and emotional conditions can sometimes be subjective, lots of people experience a lot of frustration when trying to prove they qualify for SSI/SSDI benefits. Our advocates don’t want you to have to go through this time-consuming and tough experience alone. Getting the help you need and deserve is possible, and we want to be there every step of the way.
“If you or someone you know has been struggling emotionally, you’re not alone.”
While Packard’s story is inspiring on its own, the reason I bring it up is because October is National Emotional Wellness Month and serves as a time to spread awareness about the prevalence of emotional and mental conditions while simultaneously reducing the societal stigma associated with treatment. Contrary to popular opinion, a person’s emotional and mental well-being is just as important as their physical health.
In order to qualify for these benefits, your condition must be diagnosed by a doctor and meet certain criteria.
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A DIFFICULT DISCUSSION
FOCUS ON PREVENTION EDUCATION A loved one doesn’t have to be diagnosed with cancer for you to educate your family about the disease and its prevention. Studies have linked prevention efforts, including anti-smoking campaigns and healthy lifestyle programs, to actually preventing cancer. (In fact, half of all cancers can be prevented!) Teach your child about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and excessive sun exposure to foster healthy habits and lifestyles. Organizations that host walks, benefits, and other events for cancer prevention and research can be great sources of education for families, too.
As pink-clad products line store shelves this October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, children are bound to be curious. Since they rationalize the world around them with what they already know, kids may ask silly questions like, “Is cancer contagious?” Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer or you just feel it’s time to educate your children about the disease, answering questions can be difficult. These tips can help you prepare. ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH Telling a child that you or a loved one has cancer can be complicated. To start, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends giving yourself time after hearing the news of a cancer diagnosis to process this new reality. Two-parent households should tell their children together, while single parents are encouraged to ask an adult with a positive influence on the child’s life to join the conversation. Remember, your child will be experiencing the same emotions as you but in a kid’s body, where hormones and developmental changes are already wreaking havoc. Monitor their emotions and offer them space and opportunities to discuss their feelings with a professional. When it comes to explaining the disease and its consequences, younger children may require fewer details and broader concepts, while older kids may need more comprehensive answers to their questions. A 5-year-old is going to have different concerns than a 16-year-old, so your approach must be different. However, regardless of your child’s age, always tell the truth.
The ACS has resources for families living with cancer or those wanting to learn more. Visit Cancer.org for more information.
BODY, MIND, ACTION!
MIND Keeping a journal is not just a great mental exercise; it can help you pinpoint what is making you feel anxious or stressed. Is it work? School? Family? When you sense these negative feelings set in, start writing about them. This will help you discern a pattern. While you’re writing, try to put your stress in perspective. Is the situation as bad as it seems? Sometimes just taking a few minutes to face your fears is enough to help you start your day a little more calmly. ACTION During moments of anxiety, focusing on your breathing can help. Start by slowly inhaling and exhaling by counts of five, a practice which sends messages to your brain to slow your heart rate, reducing your blood pressure. If you find that breathing tactics, meditation, and other relaxation methods don’t help, it might be time to seek out advice from family, friends, and mental-health experts. Our advocates here at Disability Help Center know how mentally and physically draining stress and anxiety can be. For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of excellent resources to bring you comfort, care, and a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Call our office today to get more information!
In honor of National Emotional Wellness Month, and in addition to addressing our advocates’ ability to help you determine whether your mental condition qualifies for Social Security benefits, we also want to offer some general advice. Information from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America informs this piece on the steps you can take to try and reduce the amount of chronic stress you experience in your daily life.
BODY When it comes to reducing your stress and anxiety, your body plays a huge role. Medical research shows that if your body isn’t feeling well or getting the nutrition and care it needs, then it can negatively affect your mental state. While it’s easier
said than done, aim to get enough sleep at night, and try to sneak in an extra half-hour or so if you’re already feeling stressed. Then when you wake up, plan on eating well-balanced meals throughout the day and avoiding too much sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Lastly, try to squeeze in some time for regular exercise. The endorphins physical activity releases are a great natural stress reliever.
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WHAT TO EXPECT AT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY HEARING GREAT ADVICE FROM OUR PARTNERS AT DISABILITY JUDGES
If you have a Social Security Disability hearing coming up, you might be feeling a little nervous. If you’ve witnessed a court hearing firsthand, or just watched them on your favorite “Law and Order” episodes, then you probably have hundreds of questions regarding what to expect when your day with the judge comes up. Due to our experiences helping thousands of people just like you get their claims approved, our advocates here at the Disability Help Center understand your concerns. That’s why this month, we want to turn to our friends and new resource partners over at Disability Judges for some great advice. Disability Judges is a website dedicated to offering up-to-date administrative law and judge case statistics. The innovative thinkers behind DisabilityJudges.com gather information from the Office of Disability Adjudication (ODAR), an organization that publishes the most recent data regarding hearing wait times, processing times, and the results of all hearing decisions, to give Social Security benefits claimants a picture of what to expect in their state that month. If you go to their homepage, you can select “California” from their map to find all the information pertinent to your case. You can also see comments from previous claimants regarding their experience with a specific judge. Armed with this helpful information, you can start to adequately plan for your hearing. Prepare to walk into a smaller and more informal conference room rather than a big courtroom for your Social Security hearing. Since these types of cases aren’t open to the public, they tend to foster a more relaxed environment. On the conference table, you will likely find audio recorders and microphones, and situated around the table, you will see your attorney, the judge, a hearing assistant and expert medical witnesses.
While these hearings are certainly more informal than the intense courtroom scenarios you might have dredged up in your mind, you’ll still want to present yourself professionally. Our partners at Disability Judges encourage men to wear khaki or dark colored slacks and a button-down or polo shirt. They encourage women to wear a casual suit or a simple dress.
While these hearings are never as frightening you anticipate they will be, you still want to be as prepared as possible. For more helpful advice, be sure to go to DisabilityJudges.com!
INGREDIENTS • 1 package melting chocolate • Assorted dried fruit, including apricots and mangoes This super easy and fun way to create homemade treats provides your kids with a healthier and more delicious alternative to packaged industrial candy. As a bonus, making it is an awesome Halloween activity for your family to enjoy.
INSTRUCTIONS 1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. 2. Place a large, heatproof mixing bowl on top of saucepan so that no steam can escape. Place melting chocolate in mixing bowl and double boil until melted. 3. Dip half of each piece of fruit in chocolate before transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet to rest. 4. Let cool for 10 minutes until chocolate solidifies. 5. Place in school lunches, serve at parties, and indulge in a few for yourself.
AUTUMN CANDY CARVE COSTUME
PUMPKIN FOOTBALL HARVEST LEAVES
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Mental Health and SSI/SSDI Benefits
Educating Your Kids About Cancer Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety Great Advice From Our Partners at Disability Judges Chocolate-Dipped Fruit
The Secret to a Perfect Jack-O’-Lantern
5 TIPS FOR LONGER-LASTING JACK-O’-LANTERNS PUMPKIN SCREAMS
APPLY PETROLEUM JELLY. After you’ve scooped out all the “pumpkin guts” and carved your masterpiece, apply a little petroleum jelly to the cuts.
Jack-o’-lanterns are an iconic part of the Halloween aesthetic, but they can quickly backfire. If you carve your pumpkins too early, you may end up with a moldy mess on Halloween. The first rule of jack-o’-lanterns is to wait as long as possible before you start carving. Here are some other tips to help you achieve the perfect jack-o’-lantern this year. FIND THE PERFECT PUMPKIN. A great jack-o’-lantern starts in the pumpkin patch — or in the grocery store if you’re short on time. Look for a fresh pumpkin with a sturdy, green stem, no bruises, and a flat bottom so it’s stable when you’re carving. Size and shape aren’t important, so long as the pumpkin sparks your creativity. Just make sure you don’t accidentally bring home a small sugar pie pumpkin, which will be harder to carve. WASH YOUR PUMPKIN. Before you start carving, mix 1 tsp of chlorine bleach with 4 liters of water and wash your pumpkin to help prevent mold. Be sure to wear gloves! CUT FROM THE BACK. Cutting the top of the pumpkin is traditional, but it removes the stem, which helps keep the pumpkin fresh. It also threatens the structural integrity of the pumpkin. Cutting from the bottom is not good, either, because all the liquid inside the pumpkin will ooze out. For the best results, carefully cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin.
This will help seal in moisture. The Farmers’ Almanac also recommends spraying your pumpkin with anti-humidity hairspray to lock in freshness.
GO ELECTRIC. Using a real candle heats up the inside of the pumpkin, causing it to decompose faster. An LED tealight with
a flickering effect will create that classic spooky jack-o’-lantern look and keep the pumpkin cool. Plus, you don’t have to worry about any trick-or-treaters getting burned if they accidentally trip over your pumpkin. These tips are to help your jack-o’-lantern last longer. When it comes to designs, feel free to let your imagination run wild! The best jack-o’-lantern is one you’re proud to show off on Halloween.
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