Parity in the Workplace
by Jan Baughman

An exciting new law goes into effect in January related to parity: The assumption that mental illness should be treated the same as physical illness. Insurers will be required to allow the same reimbursement caps for both, and employers are in a panic over the potential consequences and how to deal with employees' claims of psychiatric disabilities.

I for one am a firm believer in a biological cause behind many so-called "mental illnesses"; major depression, manic-depression, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I applaud the notion that sufferers of such afflictions should not be treated differently from others with "physical" manifestations of imbalances in their bodies. Yet there are a lot of gray areas here and I am putting my gray matter to work so that I can be ready, come January. I am hard at work reviewing my psychiatric history.

First, and foremost, I have an intense fear of early morning light; a touch of photophobia, perhaps. In layman's terms, I am not a morning person. I cannot fight my body's inherent circadian rhythms and, therefore, cannot be at work before 10:00. But I assure you that while the other employees are dining with their families, I'll be most productive. And I won't claim any sick time for having stayed up too late watching Nightline.

I have a fear of mobs, ochlophobia as it's called in the profession, so I won't be able to attend all those unruly meetings. I'll simply submit my contributions in writing and accept the fact that decisions may be reached in my absence. This is a healthy attitude, don't you think? And I'll be so much more productive with all that extra time.

My agoraphobia is a definite problem: A fear of the outside world that makes it nearly impossible to leave the house without descending into an utter state of panic. The fact is, without the aid of modern pharmacopoeia, I can only work from home. I'm sure my employer will understand.

My most serious affliction is ergophobia - the fear of work. The good news is that potential employers cannot question me on this matter. And, fortunately, it is kept in check by my chrematophobia, or fear of wealth. I think I'll be able to just make ends meet with my disability pay, should I ever find a job.

Published May 4, 1997
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