As injured worker activist Catherine Fenech notes in the Brampton Guardian this week, work injury and illness can severely affect mental health in addition to the physical impacts. For workers with permanent injuries in particular, depression, social isolation and loneliness are all too often accompanied by financial stresses and poverty. This is especially true for those up against Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board barriers such as age limits on benefits and the practice of deeming (when benefits can be cut based on phantom wages from a job that is not available).
This is where support groups come in, such as the Peel Injured Worker group founded by Catherine in 2015. As well as making personal connections with others experiencing the same losses and difficulties, injured workers share resources to help with WSIB claims and accessing other services.
“Being part of a group showed me how important it was to help me move forward with my life. It gave me purpose.
COVID-19 however has created its own challenges for keeping connected when meetings have to move online. Injured workers may face technical or financial barriers (including limited access to WiFi or computers) or be unable to find the necessary private space. Despite these difficulties, through the pandemic and after, injured worker groups continue to provide critical mutual support.
(Read online article here – an expanded story will run next week on the front cover of the three Peel newspapers: The Brampton Guardian, The Mississauga News and The Caledon Enterprise )