When someone suffers an injury there is physical harm and pain, but along with this there is also often trauma and suffering. The impact of such trauma and suffering on your mental health is not to be understated. Indeed, the trauma of experiencing an injury can often outlast the physical pain and, if not appropriately treated and managed, can lead to conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - a form of anxiety.
If your injury has led to you losing certain skills and capacity, the emotional impact can be even greater. You may experience a sense of loss, and you may be unable to take part in social and personal activities. We recognise the impact that injury can have on a person’s mental health and see it as critical that anyone who has gone through an injury considers treating their mental health as part of their recovery.
When making a claim for personal injury compensation you will be claiming for any expenses and costs related to your original injury, that is, the physical injury. It is also sometimes the case that an injured person will develop a mental health condition as a result of the injury. A claim for mental health is assessed by examining whether such a condition would have developed were it not for the injury occurring. If it is found that the mental health condition has formed due to the injury, then the injured person may claim for any reasonable medical treatment and expenses relating to this condition.
Many people will suffer from depression and/or anxiety, among other conditions, when they have lived through a workplace injury or a road accident. While your immediate focus is and should be on recovering in the physical sense, it is important to pay attention to your mental health when it is needed.
You may be experiencing a lot of emotions after an injury. You may be frustrated due to not getting better as fast as you would like to, or you might be missing out on an activity that used to bring you joy because you cannot do it until you get better.
Whatever the reason for your emotional experience, it is important to recognise it as a valid response to the trauma you have gone through, and seek the help that you need from a qualified mental health practitioner.
The majority of people who live through a serious injury will recover with good mental health. For some people the effect of a serious injury can have a large impact on their mental health which can make it harder to recover. A mental health condition can have a range of impacts; from being unable to work, through to not being able to stay in a relationship for a long period of time. It is not uncommon to experience depression after an injury, with one in three people experiencing major depression three months after a traumatic injury.
In some cases, your mental health condition may be recognised as an injury which has been caused by the negligence of the party responsible for your accident. If this is the case then you will likely be able to claim for any cost of treatment as part of your compensation for your injury. You also have the option of speaking to your general practitioner about accessing a mental health care plan. This is a Medicare initiative which helps to cover the cost of up to ten visits per calendar year to a psychologist. If your mental health condition is not diagnosed as being caused by your injury, then you can still take steps to get help and get back on track.
It is important to note that there is no one way to recover from depression or anxiety, and your journey is going to be unique. There are many things that you can do to recover, and a key part of this is going to be finding the right treatment and treating professional for you. Your GP is a great place to start your journey of getting better.
The treatment you require will vary depending on what type of anxiety or depression you are suffering from. You may have generalised anxiety disorder which might include mindfulness meditation practice and physical exercise, or you may have agoraphobia (a form of anxiety triggered by open spaces) which requires specialised treatment and management. In this case a psychologist is likely to be needed as part of your treatment.
If you have been injured at work and WorkCover is providing support, then you are entitled to five sessions of ‘adjustment to injury counselling’ which is designed to help you talk through some of the impacts and gain some understanding of how life is going to look moving forward. It is important to note that just because WorkCover is providing these five sessions that a claim for any resulting mental health conditions that may have developed will be recognised under your personal injury claim.
You need to ensure that you request your adjustment to injury counselling from WorkCover so that you can take part in this beneficial counselling. It is provided as a way to smooth the transition from injury into a new way of living, and can be a role in accepting and moving on from your injury.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
While physical rehab gets a lot of attention after an injury it's important to get help with the mental health impacts that are common when dealing with pain and adjusting to life after an injury.
Find out how to access hospital accommodation for family, charity services such as Ronald McDonald House and see listings for paid accommodation.