Does your job stress you out? Do you feel like you’re burnt out at work? You aren’t alone. Many Americans suffer from mental health issues related to their job. Work can cause a lot of stress and worsen mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
1 in 5 adults in America experiences a mental health issue. Due to how common this issue is, people in the workplace need to know their rights when dealing with mental health. While it’s common knowledge you can compensate for physical injuries, not as many people are familiar with the laws surrounding mental ones.
When you think of workers’ compensation, you probably picture someone sustaining a physical injury, such as a hurt back or broken leg, while on the job. While most workers’ compensation cases handle physical injuries, there are mental injuries sustained on-the-job that people may want to add to their case.
While workers’ compensation does cover work-related injuries and illness, what defines those illnesses can be tricky. Proving a mental issue directly stemmed from a work accident is a difficult task to accomplish, and it doesn’t mean you’re entitled to compensation.
Workers’ compensation is intended to provide hurt workers with the financial and medical help they need. Still, it often fails to help those suffering from psychiatric injuries after a work-related accident.
Mental health in the workplace
Mental health problems affect a lot of employees. Many try to hide their symptoms or pretend their mental illness doesn’t exist in a professional setting. There is still a stigma attached to mental illness, so it isn’t talked about much in the workplace.
Here are some signs of declining mental health in the workplace:
- Lower productivity
- Less engagement at work
- Failing to communicate with coworkers
- Struggling with daily functions
While mental health is certainly a problem that needs to be taken seriously in the workplace, struggling with your mental illness symptoms doesn’t necessarily qualify you for workers’ compensation.
To qualify for workers’ compensation, your injuries or illness need to have directly stemmed from your work-related accident. A pre-existing mental illness doesn’t pertain to that qualification.
Some work environments can be incredibly stressful, to the point a worker experiences a traumatic event or a significant threat to their well-being. This trauma can lead to a psychiatric injury to the employee, directly resulting from the work accident.
Common symptoms of a psychiatric injury include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Being easily startled
- Sudden bursts of anger and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling anxious and on edge
Trauma can be just as debilitating as a physical injury. Both require extensive care and rehabilitation from a medical professional, but legally, mental work-related injuries just aren’t treated the same way as physical work-related injuries.
Many states allow workers’ comp claims for post-traumatic stress disorder, but Georgia workers’ compensation law does not cover mental injuries alone. If a worker suffers emotionally but doesn’t have a physical injury, they are not entitled to workers’ compensation, regardless of the severity of the psychiatric injury.
Even if an employee suffered a physical injury and then suffers psychological issues related to the injury, insurance companies are often hesitant to provide mental health treatment. It is difficult to prove that a mental issue stems directly from a physical work accident.
Types of psychiatric injuries
Some of the psychiatric injuries you may experience after a work-related accident include:
- Anxiety: Feelings of worry and fear that interfere with your daily life
- Depression: A mood disorder with feelings of sadness and a loss of interest
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Triggered after experiencing a traumatic event
- Insomnia: Problems falling or staying asleep
Georgia law has classified psychiatric injuries into three categories to help determine if your injuries will be covered.
- Physical-Mental: This means someone suffers a physical injury that evolves into a psychological problem, such as suffering from PTSD or depression after being hurt in a bad accident at work.
- Mental-Physical: This means someone begins to suffer physically after experiencing psychological harm. For example, work-induced stress results in ulcers.
- Mental-Mental: This means someone suffers psychologically from a mental stimulus rather than a physical one, like witnessing someone else get hurt in a horrible accident at work, resulting in anxiety while using the same machinery.
In Georgia, you are most likely to receive compensation for a mental work-related injury in the physical-mental category. You are unlikely to recover any compensation for mental-physical, and, under the current laws, it simply isn’t possible to recover any if it is mental-mental.
Even if you have a physical-mental injury, insurance companies will try to deny you help. They will try to claim your mental injury existed before your work accident to avoid paying you what you deserve. That’s why it’s so essential to obtain legal counsel in the event of a workers’ compensation case.
What do I do if I’ve suffered a mental work-related injury?
While the world’s views on mental health in the workplace are starting to change, it still isn’t as widely addressed as they should be. Severe stress in the workplace can cause serious problems. We know that mental injuries can make work seem possible and cause medical bills to add up.
Suppose you believe you have a psychiatric injury as a result of a work-related accident. In that case, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney like the lawyers at The Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller. Our attorneys aren’t afraid to take on complicated cases.