Nathalie Blanchard of Bromont, Quebec, has been on sick leave for a year and a half for long-term chronic depression.
I’m available to work, because of Facebook.
Ironically, most of these events were recommended by her physician as part of her treatment.
Depression is not like other disabilities where Facebook has been used to demonstrate lack of impairment. The complex parameters of a psychosocial condition like depression is entirely distinct from factors such as range-of-motion, flexibility, and strength that are more commonly assessed in physical disabilities.
Thomas Lavin, Blanchard’s counsel, expressed similar reservations,
I don’t think for judging a mental state that Facebook is a very good tool. It’s not as if somebody had a broken back and there was a picture of them carrying …a load of bricks. 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.
We don’t know if Blanchard was bipolar, or has a chronic pain condition that may affect the presentation of her depression disorder. Although the inability to smile can lead to depression, those that do smile and possibly appear happy are not necessarily without depression.
And if we think about it for a second, Blanchard is not likely to select the photos of her sulking in the corner onto her profile. Facebook photos go through a screening process, essentially attempting to put the “best face forward.” What each person considers best, whether it’s attractiveness, professionalism, interesting, provocative, or wacky, does vary from person to person. In Blanchard’s case, where family and friends likely know about her prolonged bout with the blues, it is not unreasonable to expect her to at least try to look happy.
Here are some more established methods of evaluating depression, that long precede the use of Facebook photos:
- Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD or HAM-D)
- Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS)
- Beck Depression Inventory (BDI or BDI-II)
- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale
- And more.
As persuasive as Facebook photos might be to a jury, it lacks scientific reliability and validity. Insurance adjusters know this, and without corresponding clinical data to confirm any impressions, they should be reluctant to reject or terminate claims on the basis of photos alone without any context.