This is an unpleasant, uncomfortable, but necessary subject. Suffering an injury at work in North Carolina is a setback. You may have to take time off, go through physical therapy or spend time in the hospital. You have to do whatever it takes to get better, but in the meantime, you cannot work or adhere to your usual routine. Not to mention the issues with your injury causing you a lot of pain. This can all add up to a situation that harms your mental health.

MarketWatch explains that being off work for more than a week due to a work-related injury increases your chances of overdosing or suicide by at least 50% if you are a man. If you are a woman, it triples your risk. These are alarming statistics because they stem from a situation that you have no control over. Anyone could find themselves on leave due to an injury.

The background

These statistics come with a pretty good explanation. Being off work and collecting workers’ compensation means that you earn less. This often causes financial issues, which then leads to elevated stress levels. In addition, an injury could make you dependent on others or unable to take care of your essential needs. A worker’s pain, disability, and frustration apply pressure to family members, and marriages often suffer.

An underappreciated factor is depression among seriously injured workers is social isolation.  Contrary to the myth that those receiving workers’ compensation are enjoying their compensated time out of work, most injured workers are frustrated.  For many adults, their primary source of social interaction is at work.  Being stuck at home, especially when suffering pain and the inability to engage in normal activities, is very hard on most workers.

On top of these issues, studies found that other factors come into play. This includes dealing with the often-frustrating claims process. Feeling like you have to jump through hoops just to get compensation can really drag you down. This can easily lead to depression and other mental health issues.

The overdose risk has a link to pain medications. If you suffer extreme pain due to your injury, it is easy to accidentally take too much pain medication or become addicted to painkillers, which could lead to an overdose in the future.

After considering the stress and other aspects of a work injury, it is not a surprise that there is a higher risk for suicide or drug abuse. The only way to protect yourself is to be aware of these risks and take steps to prevent them.

It is not surprising that many injured workers end up taking medication and seeking counseling for depression.  Many lawyers who represent them, including Jay Gervasi, have had sad experiences of client suicide, as well as, fortunately, some in which attempted suicide was avoided.  The next time you hear someone talking about how workers’ compensation is an unjustified “gravy train,” please keep in your own mind the (not hypothetical) scenario in which a lawyer awakens to an email from a client that is actually a suicide note, then calls frantically to the client’s apartment complex, so that management can get ambulance personnel into the room, barely in time to take a client to the hospital.  That was one of the “winning” situations that turned out well.

In any case of serious workplace injury, it is important for everyone—the injured worker, the worker’s family, the lawyer, the treating physicians, insurance personnel, medical and vocational rehabilitation specialists—to keep an eye out for warning signs, for depression and other mental disruption, as well as problems associated with the dangerous medications that are so often necessary in treatment.