Why Ignoring Mental Health is a Mistake in Workers’ Comp. Recovery

20 Mar, 2024 Cardamone Law


Being injured can be a major interruption in your life, and recovering from your injury is hard work. Knowing that you will be facing 10-12 weeks or 6-9 months of recovery can feel like harder work than the job you’ll have to take time away from. Especially given the way that your recovery might be a cycle of progress and setbacks, ignoring your mental health during this process can be a huge mistake.

Whether your mental health concerns are part of your injury or a side effect, keeping your mental health in focus during your recovery will help make your Workers’ Compensation claim smoother and, ultimately, could help lead to better recovery times and outcomes.

Is Mental Health Covered by Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ Compensation rules vary a bit from state to state, but they generally cover any injury or illness that is “work-related.” This is most likely to be an acute physical injury – something like a broken leg, a torn tendon, a head injury, or a back injury sustained in one sudden accident. In some cases, it can be an injury or illness developed over time due to repetitive stress/repetitive strain or exposure to chemicals in the workplace, but our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer rarely sees purely mental or mental health injuries as the only injury for a Workers’ Compensation claim.

Even so, Workers’ Compensation in many states should still cover purely mental injuries, such as PTSD or similar issues. For example, Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act includes psychologists in its definition of “health care providers,” later used to discuss what care should be covered. In most cases, these issues will be symptoms of some other injury – such as PTSD after a nearly fatal fall – but you should be able to seek benefits for a mental-only injury as well. In some cases, those mental injuries also result in physical symptoms, such as panic attacks.

Linking these conditions to your mental injury and the conditions at your workplace is a bit of a challenge, but doctors and mental health professionals can often help uncover this link and find medical evidence of it to support you in a Workers’ Compensation claim.

How Mental Health Can Affect Your Workers’ Comp. Recovery

Mental health can affect your injury and your Workers’ Compensation claim itself in many ways, making it an important factor in your recovery.

Keeping Your Spirits Up

As mentioned, an injury can be discouraging. If you are looking ahead to months of putting weight on a pained leg or going though physically demanding rehabilitation, it can be hard to keep your spirits high. If you can continue to find the motivation to move forward, keep improving, and ultimately return to your work, your recovery process will be that much easier.

Keeping Appointments

Plus, from a legal perspective, you could really hurt your coverage if you get too discouraged and start missing appointments. The feeling that you’ll never get better or that the recovery process is too hard can actually lead to your benefits being terminated or suspended.

When you are on Workers’ Compensation, you need to meet all of your scheduled appointments and treatments, or else you risk getting your benefits suspended or terminated. If going to therapy, attending support groups, or being open with your loved ones about the mental and emotional difficulties you are facing can help you in any small way to find the inspiration and motivation to stick to your treatment plan, it will help you keep your benefits.

Avoiding Isolation

Your coworkers are a part of your community; they might even be your friends both at work and outside of work. Being away from work because of an injury can be isolating, which can be terrible for your mental health. You might feel like you are being left in the dust while your coworkers go on without you. You might just miss being around people other than your family every day. For some, work might be the most socialization they get, and suddenly having that taken away can hurt mentally and emotionally.
If this affects your mood and motivation, it can be harder to stick to your recovery plan and ultimately get better.

Avoiding Addiction and Substance Use

Many injured workers are prescribed opiates to deal with their pain, which – especially when combined with isolation – can lead to additional health and mental health issues. Turning to alcohol or drug use to cope with an injury is incredibly common, and many people with substance abuse and opioid addiction issues attribute the start of their use to a serious injury or accident.

Not only will an addiction impact your life in many ways, but it can also make it harder to get through your recovery, successfully complete your physical therapy, and get back to work. Even if heavy reliance on opioids does get you through your physical recovery process, it could make it hard to work once you do get cleared to return.

Mental Health Improves Recovery

There are many arguments that good mental health support can actually improve your recovery process. Not only will keeping a good mindset help you perform better in physical therapy, but a strong motivation to get better, return to work, and move on with your life can take you very far.

If you have a good mindset toward doing what you need to do to recover from your injury, it can also help you stay on top of deadlines and progress your Workers’ Compensation claim, follow up with your attorney, and pursue appeals and other tasks related to your case.

Recovery is More than Physical

If you neglect your mental health during a Workers’ Compensation case, it can make your recovery that much harder. Keeping your spirits high and dealing proactively with mental health concerns, the onset of potential substance use issues, and the isolation that comes with being stuck at home can materially improve not only your overall recovery process and your Workers’ Compensation claim but also potentially your overall health.

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