Not all injuries or illnesses are physical, as anyone who has ever suffered from any mental illness can tell you. Historically, people with mental illnesses have often had difficulty obtaining treatment, and mental illnesses like depression are still sometimes treated as less important than physical ailments, or even as less-than-legitimate conditions. So, it's not surprising that you might have concerns about your ability to receive treatment for work-related depression under workers compensation rules. The good news is that depression is considered a compensable injury under certain circumstances. Here's what you need to know about depression and worker's compensation.
What Does Depression Look Like?
Though it's commonly talked about, many people misunderstand what clinical depression actually is. A false idea of what depression looks and feels like can result in missing the chance to obtain necessary treatment. Depression is more than just feeling sad – in fact, it's possible to have depression and not feel sad at all.
Some of the common symptoms of depression include changes in your sleeping and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness. You may also feel irritable, angry, anxious, or restless. These feelings will interfere with your ability to live your life normally – in regards to work, you may be less productive, less effective at your job, and more prone to absenteeism. If you experience depressive symptoms, it's important to seek treatment as soon as you can.
Depression Linked to Physical Injury
One common scenario is for depression to arise as a result of a worker's physical injury sustained at work. This is not at all uncommon. Studies have shown that workers who have been injured are over 40% more likely to seek treatment for depression than non-injured coworkers in a given time period. Depression can be triggered by things like pain, anxiety about finances, anxiety about returning to work or concerns that one may not be able to return to work, loss of mobility (even temporarily) and fear, among other things. Given that these triggers are all things that an employee injured at work might possibly experience, it's not surprising that injured workers are more likely to experience depression.
When it comes to depression that arises due to a work related physical injury, receiving compensation is fairly simple. As long as your physical injury was compensable under workers compensation and you can show that the depression resulted because of that physical injury, your claim for depression will most likely be approved.
Depression as a Stand-Alone Injury
It is certainly possible to develop work-related depression without an accompanying physical injury, usually as a result of workplace stress. High stress assignments, pressure to perform, conflicts with coworkers or superiors, and an imbalance between work and family life are all possible conditions at work that may contribute to an employee's depression.
The trouble is, proving that your depression is the result of your job is much more difficult without an accompanying physical injury. Your employer's workers compensation insurer may deny your claim for depression if they have reason to believe that it was triggered by your home life, your relationships outside the workplace, or some other non-work related factor. Proving otherwise can be tricky at best, and if there are many factors outside the workplace that could have triggered your depression, pinpointing your job as the cause may be impossible.
Typically, depression as a stand-alone injury is compensable when you can show extraordinary circumstances that indicate the depression was caused at work. For example, if you're a bank teller, and you experience depression after being held up at gunpoint, your depression may be compensable. If you can show that you were placed under unusual stress compared to others in your workplace in similar position – for instance, if you were the target of sexual harassment or bullying – then you may be eligible for compensation for your depression.
No matter what the cause, depression is a serious condition that should be treated promptly. If you experience depression and you're convinced that the condition is a result of your job, an experienced workers compensation lawyer can help you pursue and receive the workers compensation benefits that you're entitled to.
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