Psychological Illness needs more Recognition
We often discover that a person has suffered psychological illness when they reach their breaking point and finally reach out for help.
Too often they suffer in silence, worried they will be criticised if they admit they aren't coping, or concerned they will be a burden on others if they ask for help.
As a lawyer who represents injured people, I often hear of the difficulties people face when they have had a physical injury, and the psychological effects of their loss of independence, capacity to work and ability to take care of themselves and their family.
Others suffer a primary psychological injury at work, from workplace bullying or harassment, or the type of work that they do.
To be entitled to a lump sum for permanent psychological injury under workers compensation legislation, an injured worker must be assessed as having at least 15% Whole Person Impairment ("WPI"). In comparison, the threshold for permanent physical impairment is 11% WPI.
To meet 15% WPI, a psychologically injured worker must be significantly affected in activities of daily living, including self care and personal hygiene, social and recreational activities, travel, relationships, concentration and their employability. Having to meet such a high threshold adds further challenges and stress to an already difficult situation.
Further, there are exceptions in the legislation. Section 11A of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 provides that compensation is not payable if the psychological injury was wholly or predominantly caused by reasonable action taken or proposed to be taken by the employer, in relation to transfer, demotion, promotion, performance appraisal, discipline, retrenchment, dismissal or provision of entitlements to workers.
This means that in some circumstances a worker must prove their psychological injury has arisen from their employer acting unreasonably. In comparison, the system for physical injury is effectively a "no fault" as long as employment is a "substantial contributing factor" to the injury.
Physically injured workers are often welcomed back into the workplace while it is common for those with a psychological injury to feel that their employer or other colleagues doubt their abilities to perform their role. This stigma can prevent people admitting they are suffering and from seeking appropriate help.
Although there are hurdles that workers with psychological injury face when seeking compensation, support and expert legal advice can help people find out where they stand.
If you, your family or friends wish to enquire about a similar circumstance, please email us on our "Ask Us a Question" feature or call (02) 4228 8288 to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers.