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How workplace injuries and mental health affect each other

When you sustain an injury on the job, you can file a claim to receive benefits while you recover. The money covers current and future medical treatment as well as lost income while you are out.

But what if mental illness plays a role in the injury? Can you still get workers' compensation?

When the injury happens first

Often, a workplace injury can harm your mental health. The accident (even if it involved someone else and you were just a witness to it) may have been traumatic, resulting in you developing PTSD. The stresses of having to deal with medical treatment and bills, as well as the inability to work full time or at all, can cause you to feel depression and anxiety. Even pain medication you receive for your injury can bring about addiction and all its associated problems.

Maybe you experience high levels of stress, anxiety or panic attacks from your job. You may be eligible for workers' compensation in any of these situations. However, it is more challenging to prove mental health effects due to their less concrete and measurable nature. You have to prove your work contributed and in a way that is outside of the norm, as every job comes with some pressure.

When mental illness is already present

If you already have mental health issues, is your employer off the hook for workers' comp for mental illness claims? Not necessarily. First, fault is almost always irrelevant in workers' compensation claims. Second, the job-related injury or a chronically stressful work environment may be making your condition even worse. This includes how mental illness is a risk factor in addiction to pain medication you may have to take due to a work injury.

Employers must take into account existing mental health when creating a safe workplace, advises the National Safety Council in its Safety and Health magazine. Doing so is a win-win for both parties. Employees are less likely to get hurt or feel overwhelmed, leading to higher productivity and fewer or shorter-lasting claims against employers.

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