If you’ve been injured on the job, unable to work, and/or in pain, you may be feeling depressed, anxious, or both. It’s understandable—your mental health is connected to your physical health, and many people’s identities are tied to their work. Mental health conditions can become part of a work comp claim if they are tied to the injury. The state of your mental health can make a significant difference in how your claim is classified.
More importantly, we want to ensure that you address depression and anxiety anytime it occurs. And especially when it occurs or worsens as a result of a work injury.
Why Mental Health Matters to Work Comp Claims
Mental health can be a substantial issue that affects you personally as well as your family and your work. Symptoms of depression and anxiety may occur following a serious injury, or even a minor injury if it means you can’t do your job. What you need to realize is that mental health issues can turn a claim about a scheduled injury, such as a knee injury, into a claim industrial disability. As an example, this could mean your claim for a knee injury, scheduled by the State of Iowa at a maximum of 220 weeks, based upon a percentage of a doctor’s rating becomes compensated a 500-week industrial disability that is not based solely on a doctor’s rating.
You may be wondering if it matters whether you’ve been treated for anxiety or depression before. The answer is no. From a legal perspective, preexisting mental health conditions don’t necessarily matter. Mental health claims become part of the injury if aggravated by the work injury. If you are on depression or anxiety medications that need to be increased due to increased anxiety or depression over the injury, it becomes work-related and compensable through workers’ compensation.
Document Your Mental Health
So, what should you do about your symptoms of depression and anxiety? The answer is simple: Document them and report them to your medical providers and seek treatment for them. Too many people dismiss mental health issues, but they can take over your life if left untreated.
For example, lack of sleep from insomnia can make you irritable, causing rifts with family and friends. A racing heart from anxiety can affect your social life and your overall health. Feeling sad and useless from depression can take a toll on your life, too. You may feel too tired to care for your personal hygiene and your health, which can make recovery from your injury extend.
The important thing is to document your mental health symptoms the same way you document your physical injury. Write them down and tell every professional involved in your work comp claim, from your employer to the insurance company to your nurse case manager. Your strongest advocate for mental health will likely be your personal doctor or mental health provider. Be sure to notify them of your injury and visit with them about any symptoms of depression or anxiety. But most of all, for care to be paid for by the insurance company, it has to be authorized by the insurance company. Treatment sough on your own will likely not be paid for.
Irritable and depressed? Let them know. Can’t sleep? Tell the nurse, ortho, and your personal physician. Have other unexplained symptoms? Talk about them to healthcare providers, whether they provide mental healthcare or not. Ask for treatment of your symptoms before they get worse. Here is a deeper dive into depression symptoms that you should pay attention to when injured on the job.
Work Comp Claim Tip:
To keep track of everything, consider using a calendar to write down when the injury occurred and all physical and mental symptoms as you experience them. Keep track of doctor’s appointments, conversations with your employer, calls with the insurance company, etc.
If you have pain from your injury, the stress of the pain can be mentally and emotionally draining you may experience problems sleeping, problems with concentration, problems with energy, significant issues beyond the physical limitations caused by pain. It is possible that you will feel anxiety about a loss of earning capacity. Anxiety can cause a variety of symptoms, including a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, etc.
When you’re injured on the job, do not hesitate to document how you’re feeling, both physically and mentally. Be honest and communicative. It could make a significant difference in your work comp claim.