Mental health has traditionally been considered a pariah in workers’ compensation claims management. The old way of thinking is that when psychological issues enter the picture, claim costs spin out of control and return-to-work delays soar.
That perception has gradually diminished over the past decade as professionals are realizing that addressing these factors early can help reduce delays later. Though psychosocial factors such as isolation, post-traumatic stress and depression can incur following an injury and during recovery, the fact is, a good number of injured employees come into the workers’ comp system with mental health conditions, whether diagnosed or not.
It may be surprising to learn that mental illness is one of the leading causes of worker disability in the U.S. A recent study published by disability insurer Unum shows the true extent of the problem. Researchers surveyed 1,800 workers and reported 42 percent were aware of a colleague with a mental health issue. More than half — 62 percent — said they had experienced a period where they have felt mentally unwell. Of 500 workers who had been diagnosed with a mental health issue, many said they had come to work while they had suicidal feelings.
Those are some hard numbers to swallow considering that work and purposeful activity have the greatest impact on moderating depression, building self-esteem and negating idleness. As those in our industry know, workplace injuries can have a significant effect on mental health, which increases as an injured worker is out of the office.