Supporting Your Mental Health After a Workplace Injury
When you leave your house at the beginning of the workday, probably the last thing you would imagine is that you will return home injured. But the reality is that there are on average around 5000 employer-reported workplace injuries in the United States every year. And when you’re injured on the job, it’s not only your physical wellbeing that’s impacted. Workplace injuries can also take a profound toll on mental health, a toll often overlooked in the effort to recover medically from the event.
However, for those who have been injured on the job, supporting mental health is often as important as pursuing physical healing.
The Social and Emotional Impacts
One of the most significant reasons why overcoming the mental health impacts of workplace injury often takes a relative backseat to physical restoration is because the bodily injury is often perceived as more obvious and more urgent than the psychological one.
The reality, however, is that any injury, no matter how “minor” it may appear to others, is a trauma. To be sure, the event that caused the injury, as well as the process of treating and recovering from the injury, can be very traumatic in itself. This is especially true if the event could have been life-threatening or if there is substantial pain and a protracted recovery involved.
For instance, if the injury requires surgery, the mental health effects can be profound. The body, after all, has endured an ordeal merely by withstanding the operation.
Even for injuries that do not require such an extensive intervention, though, the injury, as well as the recovery process, often means the loss of one’s sense of self, security, and certainty.
For many of us, after all, work isn’t just a job. It’s also a sense of identity and purpose. And when the injury takes that away, no matter how briefly, it’s easy to feel unmoored, to feel lost in yourself. Workers who have been hurt may feel a sense of shame and guilt not only for not being able to fulfill their responsibilities at work and home but also for needing to rely on others for help.
In addition to the loss of autonomy and purpose, those who have experienced an injury in the workplace are also likely to feel that they’ve lost their sense of community and connection. Some of our most reliable and fulfilling relationships are those we experience on a day-to-day basis with our colleagues. And when you are suddenly deprived of those daily interactions, it’s easy to feel isolated and, eventually, perhaps even relatively replaceable. The work goes on, after all, and the workplace continues to hum without you.
Feeling alone, insecure, and uncertain can quickly spiral into depression. This is true even for brief recovery periods. In fact, studies show that workers who miss as few as five days of work following an injury still frequently exhibit signs of depression.
The Toll of Financial Hardship
As debilitating as the social and emotional impacts of a workplace injury may be, there is also, almost inevitably, a profound financial impact. From the work time lost to the medical costs of treatment and recovery, when you’ve been hurt on the job, suddenly your financial security can seem perilous, indeed.
And when you’re facing financial hardship, you are also going to experience a litany of physiological and psychological harms. When you are under financial stress, you’re also at significantly higher risk of various forms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders, such as substance abuse and alcohol addiction.
Cultivating Mental Health Recovery
As severe, long-lasting, and wide-ranging as the psychological harms of workplace injury may be, there is hope. No matter what your physical prognosis may be following your injury, it is possible to regain your mental wellbeing, to rebuild a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling life.
One of the best and most important ways to begin is by seeking the help you need. A qualified nurse advocate, for instance, can help connect you with the resources that you need to begin regaining your emotional and psychological bearings. As your advocate, your nurse will collaborate with you and interface with your healthcare team and support network to help you redefine your new normal, regardless of how long or how complete your recovery may be.
When you are injured on the job, everything suddenly changes. Even if you are expected to make a full recovery, that does not mean that the experience won’t take a toll on your mental health. And if the injury means that you may be unable to return to the work you once did, those psychological impacts can be even greater. From the loss of a sense of self and community to the uncertainty and fear of financial hardship, getting hurt on the job can pose significant threats to your mental health. And this is why seeking support for your mental wellbeing, such as the assistance of a qualified nurse advocate, can help you build a happy, peaceful future post-injury.
Guest post by Luke Smith
Tags: behavioral health, crossroads health, lake county, mental health, mental health awareness, mental health support, Mentor Ohio, workplace, workplace injury