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There’s depression and then there’s depression. I talk to a lot of people who are being treated for mild chronic depression or situational depression and the truth is that from a life insurance underwriting standpoint, there’s not a lot of risk.

We’ve placed plenty of cases in those categories at preferred or preferred plus rates. That would be indicative of an issue that has little or no perceived risk. But what about the depression you see on TV ads, the kind that sucks the fun and life right out of you? The kind that affects your pets, your plants and, at the very least, makes you no fun to be around?

That’s chronic depression and often requires counseling and multiple meds to manage. It’s often disruptive to the normal flow of life and can be disabling. From an underwriting standpoint, depending on severity and control, these cases can be underwritten and approved at anywhere from preferred to highly rated and decline is not out of the question.

Certainly a big question for those applying for life insurance is whether there is a perceived risk that anyone with depression is a suicide risk. Generally this isn’t part of the underwriting thought process unless there have been thoughts or actions that would lead an underwriter to believe it’s a concern. Having said that, anything discussed with your physician or psychiatrist will show up in your records. A casual conversation that happens to include suicidal thoughts will turn into a decline unless it was quite some time ago.

Suicide question aside, it really comes down to control and a person’s ability to carry on a normal work and family life. In the absence of disabling mood swings or a lack of stability in a person’s normal life, standard or better rates are likely.

Bottom line. Depression is one of those issues that is definitely ripe for disappointment if you pick the wrong agent (one that isn’t familiar and versed in placing depression cases), who will inevitably try to apply with the wrong company. Be candid. Make sure the agent understands your depression history and is aware of any failed attempts at obtaining life insurance. Make sure they shop it and don’t just shoot from the hip and go with a company they like. Ask them to see the email results of shopping it. Keep them honest.