- the psychological trauma of suffering an accident or disease
- coping with the chronic pain that may result
- the anxiety of wondering how to financially make ends meet
- social isolation and depression when removed from regular daily life and routines
- the stress of dealing with aggressive claims management practices by employers or the Board, with toxic work environments or with harassment
- the stigma and suspicion that still today place the blame on the victim, especially when the injury is invisible
Recognition of mental health injuries lacking
In February 2016, the Minister of Labour introduced legislation creating a presumption that for emergency personnel (such as police, firefighters, paramedics) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a work-related injury. However for many injured workers the Board’s restrictive approach to and understanding of mental health issues (see ‘Fact Sheet’) is extremely limited, while the real-life impact for a worker and her/his family can mean “denial, delay and debt” .
In the ONIWG/OFL Nov. 2015 “Prescription Over-ruled” report Ontario psychologists and other health-care providers raised a number of long-standing concerns about the Board’s “improper interference with medical care and bad faith decision-making.” Following overwhelming response to the report, health professionals, workers, legal advocates and labour groups called for a full investigation by the Ontario Ombudsman Office. In November 2016 a group of legal clinics and lawyers lodged a second complaint, with the “Ombudsman asked to probe WSIB treatment of mentally ill” (Toronto Star). Read their “Submission” on a systemic denial of benefits because of discriminatory and unconstitutional practices.
2017 Policy consultation on chronic mental stress
In May 2017 the government responded with an amendment to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act in Bill 127, with changes considered too little and too late by many advocates. The WSIB has issued a draft policy for consultation, and in October released its summary of feedback. The new Chronic Mental Stress policy (Policy 15-03-14) and revised Traumatic Mental Stress policy (Policy 15-03-02) will come into effect Jan. 1, 2018. Debate in the legal community continues. …
Although injured workers themselves have long recognized the value of peer support, the wider community is also increasingly looking to workers’ mental wellness. A major initiative led by OHCOW created the online “Mental Injury Toolkit: A Worker’s Guide to Addressing Workplace Causes of Mental Distress”. And in October 2014 the Ontario government’s Roundtable on Traumatic Mental Stress reported back on best practices in addressing workers’ mental stress, and reducing the stigma that surrounds it. This reflects not only growing public awareness of the societal and economic toll of mental health conditions, but an increasing body of research documenting the negative psychological impacts of work-related injury.