What to Know About Mental Health and Workers’ Compensation

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2022 | Workers' Compensation |

Americans are becoming more open about their mental health, including in the workplace. According to a recent report from CNBC, half of U.S. workers say they’ve been dealing with a mental health issue since the beginning of the pandemic.

In many cases, mental health struggles often stem from genetics or other factors in a person’s life. But increasingly, people are starting to develop mental health issues related to their jobs.

If you’re experiencing mental health problems due to your work, you may wonder whether you can receive workers’ compensation for these injuries.

Can I claim workers’ comp for mental health issues on the job?

Knowing whether you can get workers’ comp for psychological harm can be difficult because everyone’s circumstances are different. And in states like North Carolina and Virginia, the rules surrounding who can qualify aren’t always clear.

North Carolina typically views workers’ compensation benefits as a resource for those who’ve suffered physical injuries at work. At the same time, the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act says that workplace mental health injuries can qualify someone for benefits. That’s as long as the worker can prove their mental health issue is related to an occupational disease or a workplace accident.

The rules are similar in Virginia. Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, workers who get approved for benefits for their mental health injuries can get the same level of coverage as workers who suffer physical injuries. But similar to North Carolina, mental health injuries can be more challenging to prove without compelling evidence. However, Virginia provides exceptions for firefighters and law enforcement who have PTSD due to traumatic events or exposures in the line of duty.

When could I get workers’ comp for a mental health injury?

Proving how your mental health issues stem from workplace activities can come with challenges. However, some scenarios can make it easier for workers to gather the appropriate evidence to strengthen their case:

  • Your physical workplace injury turns into a mental one: When someone suffers a bodily injury at work, many people only think they’re dealing with physical pain. However, for many workers, physical and mental injuries can go hand in hand. For example, you may have traumatic flashbacks about your injury, replaying the event repeatedly in your head, which leaves you feeling anxious that it will happen again. Or your injury makes you feel embarrassed because of your years of experience or high-level ranking in your organization that you think shouldn’t have happened, causing you to become depressed.
  • Their mental health issues stem from a traumatic event at work: Some people find high-stress occupations exciting and emotionally rewarding. However, a traumatic event that happens on the job can cause even the most resilient workers to suffer from mental health problems. For example, firefighters can experience a lot of traumas in their jobs. They enter hazardous environments and risk their lives to save others regularly. There have been many stories in the news about firefighters who suffer from PTSD, insomnia, anxiety, or even substance abuse and needed to take time off of work to recover from traumatic incidences.
  • Mental health issues stem directly from stressors at a particular workplace: Some workplaces can be highly stressful, even when they don’t need to be. For instance, you may be working for an employer who does not set clear expectations, forces you to make potentially illegal decisions, and does other things that make you feel psychologically unsafe. Employees in these situations can suffer from numerous mental health problems as a result. Your ideal solution may be to quit and find a new employer. However, if you aren’t in a financial position to do so, filing a workers’ comp claim can come with additional challenges but isn’t impossible. If you can prove that the working conditions at your workplace are objectively stressful, have evidence that supports your claim, and prove you don’t have any predispositions you bring to your job, those factors can help strengthen your case when seeking benefits.

Workers can bounce back after a solid recovery

Society has only recently realized the importance and impact of mental health on our lives. That’s especially true when it comes to our jobs. And while mental health injuries can be more challenging to prove, workers who suffer from workplace mental health issues can seek the benefits they need with the help of a trusted legal advocate.

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