Can You Get Workers’ Compensation Claim for Work-related Mental Illness?

For many Americans, mental health disorders are a regular part of life, and, by extension, a regular part of working life. But while some mental health disorders may result from challenging personal circumstances or genetic factors, others are directly tied back to the workplace itself: to the job, the worksite or to the people there.

For an employee, work-related mental disorders can be just as devastating as physical injuries or illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that depression, for example, reduces on-the-job cognitive performance by as much as 35 percent. Other work-related mental illnesses might include anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

However, it can be tricky to trace a workplace-related mental health disorder back to the job. It starts by recognizing that something isn’t right and by seeking help to address the issue.

How to spot a workplace-related mental health disorder
Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders don’t always look the same from person to person. The signs of a mental health disorder are wide-ranging and may include:

  •       Disrupted sleep
  •       Loss of enjoyment
  •       Difficulty concentrating
  •       Irritation or short temper
  •       Restlessness
  •       Thoughts of self harm
  •       GI problems

The first step toward addressing a mental health issue is by speaking to a healthcare professional. From there, the individual should be able to work with you to find a treatment plan that begins to help you manage your symptoms and, if you’re unable to work, help you get back on the job in a healthy way. If your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), that may also be a useful resource for finding a professional to speak with.

If your mental health concern is directly tied to your work, your doctor will also play a critical part in your workers’ compensation claim, since you’ll have to prove your condition is directly tied to your job.

Proving that your mental health diagnosis is related to work

Fortunately, as with all workers’ comp cases, you don’t have to demonstrate that your employer did something wrong to contribute to your mental health diagnosis. You do, however, have to show that your condition is directly tied to your work—not your personal life, general health or other outside circumstances.

Sometimes, this is more straightforward. If you’re a restaurant worker who was robbed on the job or a construction worker who witnessed an accident and you now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the connection is fairly obvious. In these cases, you’d need to document the traumatizing event, the resulting challenge in performing your job and the eventual mental health diagnosis.

In other cases, though, a mental condition may come from repeated exposure to stress. According to the World Health Organization, harassment and bullying are common workplace conditions that lead to mental health problems. Even the work itself may lead to mental health issues, like the stress and long hours of working in a slaughterhouse, or the exposure to trauma that can come from healthcare work. In these cases, the employee would need to show that a diagnosis of anxiety, for example, and the resulting loss of work time, didn’t come from family issues, money problems or other personal reasons.

Workplaces have a tremendous opportunity to lessen the mental health burden of employees and equip staff with the tools and time they need to care for themselves. It’s not only the right decision, it’s a smart decision for employers’ bottom line, too—leading to a healthier, more productive workforce and saving in related healthcare expenses.

Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
If you’re suffering from the symptoms of a mental health disorder, be sure to speak to a mental health professional. If you need help filing a workers’ comp claim for your workplace-related mental health disorder, we can guide you through the process. Contact the Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera today for a free consultation, or give us a call at 404-991-5097.

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