Workers’ compensation is a resource for employees who suffered from a work-related injury or illness. Most workers may associate workers’ compensation with injuries such as a broken bone caused by a workplace accident, or a muscle strain caused by repetitive motion. Employees may not realize, however, that there are numerous conditions that are work-related that could be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage, including certain mental health conditions. It is important for workers to understand their eligibility, especially those dealing with unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Mental health conditions can vary widely in terms of their symptoms and severity. An employee suffering from a mental health injury or complication may have difficulty carrying out their daily responsibilities and may require treatment. This can have a severe impact on a worker’s quality of life and can make them unable to work. Work-related mental illness can be just as devastating as a physical injury and is often accompanied by some type of physical condition.
Work-Related Mental Health Conditions
One of the most common work-related mental health conditions is stress; data from 2019 shows that stress and anxiety were two of the most frequent causes of employee absences. Most employees experience occasional work-related stress, but in some cases, stress can escalate to a point at which it becomes a disability, preventing a person from working and causing other complications. Workplace stress can contribute to anxiety, depression, and insomnia, all of which can become progressively worse if conditions do not improve.
In some cases, workers can also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is common in high-stress professions, such as law enforcement, paramedics, or other first responders who regularly experience violence or see others in distress. PTSD can be caused by a wide variety of traumatic experiences and workers in any industry may experience it. Employees who suffered from some type of abuse in the workplace can experience PTSD, as can those who go through a traumatic incident at work.
For many employees, work-related mental illness goes hand in hand with physical injury or illness. Workers injured on the job may see an impact on their mental health. Workplace injuries can limit a worker’s mobility, either temporarily or permanently, and this change in their quality of life can result in depression or other mental health conditions. Approximately 50 percent of injured workers experience symptoms of depression, many in the first month after they have been injured. Conversely, a work-related mental health condition can also cause physical symptoms, such as sleep disorders, changes in mood or behavior, difficulty focusing at work, or other complications. Workers suffering from a work-related mental illness are also more at risk for substance abuse issues and addiction.
How Does Work Impact Mental Health?
There are multiple ways that work can impact an employee’s mental health. Employees may be dealing with challenging working conditions, such as long hours, dangerous working conditions, or intense pressure to succeed. A worker may struggle with their mental health if they are subjected to a hostile work environment, which could include sexual harassment, aggression from supervisors, or other abusive behaviors. Employees who are overworked or working in fear may spend their off hours dreading the next day.
In addition to ongoing work conditions, mental health difficulties can be related to specific incidents in the workplace. Every industry has unique risks, and an ordinary day can quickly turn into a traumatic experience when an incident occurs. Accidents are common in industries such as construction, and those who witness or are involved in a severe accident can experience anxiety or PTSD. Employees may also experience a violent crime at work, such as a bank robbery or a school shooting, that can have a serious mental and emotional impact. This can be difficult to recover from, especially as workers have to keep returning to the scene of the traumatic incident.
COVID-19 and Mental Health
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, conversations around mental health have been coming to the forefront. Workers across the country are dealing with changes to their schedules or working environment that are having a significant impact on their mental health; workers may be feeling isolated by having to social distance in the workplace or work from home, or they may have anxiety about the potential for infection. As the economy struggles under the weight of business closures, many workers are also worried about keeping their jobs. As a result, rates of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, have been on the rise.
Employers are trying to figure out how to keep their employees safe during this time, and many are considering mental health in a way that they had not before. This is an opportunity for employers to take care of their employees, as well as protect their own bottom line. Addressing potential mental health concerns proactively can improve employee wellness and increase productivity. Employers can build trust by checking in regularly with employees and giving employees access to mental health resources. Providing a workspace where employees can talk openly about their mental health can remove the stigma around these conditions and help prevent them from escalating.
Obtaining Compensation for Work-Related Mental Illness
Mental illness has been on the rise recently and is currently the leading cause of disability among workers. Employees suffering from mental health conditions should see a doctor as soon as possible to receive a diagnosis. They may need to seek treatment with a counselor or therapist, as well as treatment for any physical symptoms they are suffering from as well. Treatment may include regular appointments, prescriptions, or other therapies. In some cases, their condition may be severe enough that they need to take a leave of absence from work or limit their hours. Workers’ Compensation benefits cover medical costs for treatment related to workplace injuries or illnesses, as well as lost wages during an employee’s recovery.
In order to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits for mental health conditions, an employee must prove that their suffering is work-related. This can be more challenging since there are many other factors that can contribute to mental health, including genetics, other health problems, family difficulties, or financial struggles.
Employees suffering from work-related mental health conditions should thoroughly document their experience to help establish the link between their condition and their work. This is easiest to achieve if there was one major incident involved, but ongoing situations can also be documented. If employees are being overworked, they should keep track of their hours and assignments. If they are suffering from harassment, they should make a note of the dates and circumstances each time it happens. Employees should also document how their working environment is impacting them and what symptoms they are experiencing as a result.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Advocate for Workers Suffering from Mental Illnesses
If you are suffering from a work-related mental health condition, contact the Cherry Hill workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP. We will ensure that you have the documentation needed to argue your case and guide you through each step to get you the best possible outcome. Conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we represent injured and ill workers throughout South Jersey, including Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, and Pennsauken. Call us today at 856-761-3773 or contact us online for a free consultation.