- 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 approach to and understanding of mental health issues is extremely limited. In recent years in particular, the Board’s austerity agenda has led to a crackdown on recognition of the mental health injuries [“Fact sheet”] that injured workers often face as a result of their work injuries. The Mar. 2016 Toronto Star article “Denial, delay and debt” shows the real-life impact of the Board’s approach for a worker and his family.
Because of the Board’s restrictive approach, the injured worker movement has placed a large emphasis on mental health issues in its activities, including making it one of the main focal points of the “Prescription Over-ruled” report. In that report, 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) and systemic denial of benefits because of discriminatory and unconstitutional practices [read their “Submission”].
Support for mental wellness
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.