Don’t Smile when Depressed and Dancing with Strippers

Nathalie Blanchard of Bromont, Quebec, has been on sick leave for a year and a half for long-term chronic depression.

The 29-year-old woman had her benefits cut by IBM after she posted pictures on Facebook at a male stripper show,  her own birthday party and on holidays.  Her Manulife representative told her that,

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:

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.

Cross-posted from Slaw

3 Comments on "Don’t Smile when Depressed and Dancing with Strippers"

  1. Regardless of whether or not she smiled or not isn’t the issue. You can be smiling and still be depressed. Most people depressed can still smile, but are most likely faking it and are not necessarily feeling the happy emotions that actually make a smile.. This is the difficulty with being depressed and just one happy moment doesn’t change the fact that she is still depressed and on sick leave. Most depressed seek out extremes to try and get a natural emotion of happiness. Even then, one happy time doesn’t solve the problem. Accepting the present moment with a sense of gratefulness daily will help transition depression back to a more level emotional playing field.

  2. After a year and a half you feel that you are not too depressed to frolic on a southern beach, fool around with a stipper and party party party but you are TOO depressed to show up at work.
    Sorry Princess but did you really think that you are Paris Hilton and would get paid to party for the rest of you life?
    Unfortunately your irresponsible acting will cause problems for people who are seriously depressed but really do try to get back to work as quickly as possible.

  3. Enough Already | December 4, 2009 at 10:50 am |

    Work can be an integral part of therapy for some psychiatric disorders. Research data claims that those who are absent on medical from three to six months greatly increase their inability to ever report for work on a regular basis.

    If workplace situations contribute to an illness, the physician should be working with those in the workplace to correct or minimize those situations. However, work usually isn’t the culprit; it’s usually situations and interactions outside of work. Caring for parents and/or young children and/or teens with medical or other problems and/or post-secondary education all become very hard — if not impossible — to do if you have to report to an employer’s place of business from 9 to 5.

    If you take time off to take care of your personal matters, you lose pay. No, wait, if you can get your physician to claim “Depression” or “Anxiety” or both, you can have at least two years off until the insurance company shifts you over from “own job” to “any job” category.

    Most physicians act as advocates or they blindly regugitate whatever their patient says (ie. I’m not well enough to return to work.) That’s not good enough.

Comments are closed.