Are you worried about your mental health and whether mental health in workers compensation exists? Well then you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 50 million Americans suffer from some form of mental illness each year.

There are several reasons why someone might experience mental health issues. Some common causes include trauma or abuse, substance abuse, genetics, and environmental stressors.

While mental illnesses vary widely, they often affect a person’s ability to function at their highest level. This makes them susceptible to workplace injuries and accidents. As such, it is important that employers understand how to handle these situations when they arise.

What are mental illnesses?

Mental Health in Workers Compensation

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness is “a medical condition characterized by abnormal thoughts, emotions, behaviors, or perceptions which cause distress or impairment in social functioning.”

It can be caused by biological factors (such as genetics), psychological factors (for example, stress) or environmental factors (such as trauma).

Depression is the most common mental illness among women and men.

This is followed by anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders include panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, phobias and other conditions.

On the other hand, Psychosis is a severe mental illness that causes hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and sometimes aggressive behavior.

Other mental illnesses include eating disorders, substance abuse disorders and personality disorders.

How does mental illness affect employees?

Employees suffering from mental illness may exhibit symptoms such as mood swings, lack of motivation, poor attention span, irritability, anger outbursts, difficulty concentrating, memory problems and suicidal ideation.

In addition, employees with mental illness may need additional time off work, take longer breaks, miss meetings or deadlines, make mistakes on the job and lose focus. As a result, productivity decreases, causing financial losses.

Many workers with mental illness are also prone to making errors because of impaired judgment and decision-making skills. This makes them vulnerable to being injured or killed on the job.

As a result, companies must pay higher premiums for worker compensation insurance policies. They also incur higher costs related to absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.

Finally, mental illness can lead to suicide, which is one of the leading causes of death in the United States according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The good news is that there are effective treatments available for mental illness. In fact, research shows that early intervention leads to better outcomes.

However, only about half of individuals who suffer from mental illness receive treatment. The reasons why so few seek help are varied. Some do not know they are ill; some believe their symptoms are normal; and some fear discrimination if they disclose their condition.

What could employers do to help employees with mental illnesses?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, employers should provide support services to help employees cope with their mental health needs. These services could include:

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1. Counseling

Counselors can help employees understand their mental health issues and develop coping strategies. They can also assist employees in developing healthy relationships with family members and friends. In counseling, clients learn how to manage their emotions, improve self-esteem and strengthen interpersonal skills.

2. Social support groups

Social networks can play an important role in helping people manage their mental health. With the right social support network, people with mental health issues can learn more about their selves and about others.  Add to that, peer groups can provide emotional support and advice. Social support groups also offer emotional support and peer counseling.  Peer-to-peers can be coworkers, family members, friends or even other employees.

3. Medication management

Medications can be used to treat depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. However, these drugs have side effects, including drowsiness, weight gain, dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, headaches and sexual dysfunction.

Therefore, it’s important to discuss the benefits and risks of medication with your doctor before taking any medications. Some medications used to treat mental illness can also be monitored through blood tests. Employers can monitor these results to ensure medication levels remain within safe limits.

4. Referrals to community resources

Some people with mental illness have trouble accessing care due to stigma and a shortage of providers. Employers can refer employees to local mental health clinics, where they can get free medical screenings and counseling.

5. Access to flexible scheduling options

Some people with mental illness experience side effects when taking medications. For this reason, it’s important for employers to be aware of these side effects and offer appropriate accommodations.

Examples of job accommodations include flexible scheduling, reduced workload, modified duties, telecommuting opportunities, and extended leave. Flexible scheduling also allows employees to change their hours or days off when necessary. For example, an employee may want to have fewer hours during the week but more at the weekend.

6. Job coaching

Job coaches can help employees improve performance in specific areas where they struggle. For example, someone might need assistance learning new software programs or completing tasks quickly. The coaches can teach them how to use the tools needed to perform well and they would be able to counter feelings of inadequacy that their mental health predicaments may bring.

7. Workplace wellness programs

Employees who participate in workplace wellness programs are less likely to suffer from stress and burnout. Programs like these encourage employees to take better care of themselves by eating healthier food, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.

Employees can also benefit from workplace wellness programs by receiving information and guidance about managing stress and maintaining good physical and mental health. Examples of such programs include: Fitness centers, Yoga/meditation sessions, Stress management workshops, Healthy snacks, Free massages, etc.

8. Self-care strategies

Self-care is essential for anyone dealing with mental illness. It includes things such as exercise, healthy diet, adequate rest, socialization, and managing stress. People with mental illness should practice self-care because it helps prevent relapse and improves overall quality of life. Self-care strategies can be incorporated into the workplace by offering activities and classes.

9. Mental health first aid training

Mental health first aid is a program designed to educate workers on how to respond to someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Employees can receive training on how to recognize signs of mental illness, what to do if they witness a person displaying symptoms and how to contact emergency services.

10. Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Employees with mental health issues often feel isolated and alone. Therefore, EAPs can serve as a source of emotional support. An EAP provides confidential access to trained counselors who can answer questions, give guidance and referrals, and assist with problem solving.

Employees can use these programs to get help for personal problems such as stress, depression or substance abuse.

What are the best ways to identify employees with mental illness?

There are several ways to identify potential employees with mental illness.

For example, you can ask your current employees how well they perform in certain situations. You can also observe their interactions with co-workers, customers and clients.

You might notice that certain employees seem overly stressed or distracted during the day. Or maybe they have trouble completing tasks at work. If this is the case, it’s important to talk to these employees about their concerns.

You can also conduct interviews with applicants before hiring them. During the interview process, discuss any issues the applicant has had in the past. Ask questions like, “How would you handle a difficult situation? What types of stressors do you experience at home or at work? How do you deal with stress?”

If you suspect that an employee may be experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses, you can refer him or her to a counselor. Your company will most likely cover the cost of the counseling sessions.

In addition to referring employees to counselors, you can also offer them social support groups. These groups can help reduce feelings of isolation and improve job performance.

Employees with mental illness need special consideration when it comes to safety. They may require additional training to ensure they understand how dangerous their jobs can be.

How much does mental illness cost employers?

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Mental illness costs employers billions of dollars each year. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly 20 percent of adults experience some form of mental illness at some point during their lives.

And according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, depression alone affects 17.3 million American adults.

Mental illness has become a major issue in today’s workplace.

Employers are struggling to deal with the rising number of employees who suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression.

In addition, they also face increased legal liability due to employee misconduct.

The good news is that there are steps employers can take to protect themselves against lawsuits. Here are three tips:

1. Train supervisors and managers on how to recognize signs of mental illness.

2. Create policies and procedures that address mental health issues.

3. Provide adequate resources for employees who are dealing with mental illness.

Is workers’ compensation applicable for mental health issues?

Workers compensation laws were created to compensate injured workers for lost wages and medical expenses. However, if an employee suffers from a mental disability, he or she may not qualify for workers comp benefits.

Can a lawyer help you with workers compensation in relation to your mental illness?

A workers comp attorney can help you determine whether you have a workers’ comp claim. If so, then he or she can advise you about the best way to proceed.

For more information about workers compensation law, contact us today. Our lawyers will review your situation and give you honest advice. We want to help you get the benefits you deserve.