With World Mental Health Day recently held on 10 October 2018 and Queensland Mental Health Week held from 6-14 October 2018, it is a timely reminder of the importance of raising awareness for positive mental health and wellbeing in our community.
The theme for Queensland Mental Health Week 2018 is to promote mental health and wellbeing through 6 steps:-
- Be active – do what you can, enjoy what you do, get moving and improve your mood;
- Keep learning – embrace new experiences, recognise opportunities, surprise yourself;
- Connect – talk, listen, be there;
- Give – your time, your words, your presence;
- Take notice – remember the simple things that give you joy; and
- Care for our planet – it’s the home we all share.
It is important for anyone who is suffering or having difficulties with their mental health to take the first step and attend their treating general practitioner for treatment and advice. For anyone suffering financial hardship, a mental health care plan and referral can be organised by your general practitioner which will allow you obtain psychological treatment which is subsidised by Medicare Australia.
We see many clients who not only suffer from physical injuries but also secondary psychological injuries. We also see many clients who suffer from pure psychological injuries. It is important to note that the law also provides support for our psychological health and wellbeing and these types of injuries are just as compensable as physical injuries.
If you have sustained a psychological injury in connection with your Queensland based employment, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits which includes replacement wages, medical expenses, rehabilitation, pharmaceutical expenses, travel expenses, vocational assistance and lump sum compensation.
In order to receive these statutory benefits an application for compensation must be lodged with WorkCover Queensland within 6 months of diagnosis or first visit to your treating doctor. It must also be shown that your employment is the major significant contributing factor to the development of the psychology injury.
However, the statutory scheme will not provide compensation benefits if it is determined that the psychological injury was caused by:
- Reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way by an employer;
- A workers’ expectation or perception of reasonable management action; or
- Action by an authority or insurer in relation to a workers’ application for compensation.
It is often the case that WorkCover Queensland will offer to fund “adjustment to injury counselling” for workers who have suffered a physical injury and have expressed mental health concerns. However, this is not the same as WorkCover Queensland actually accepting an application for compensation in relation to the secondary psychological injury. To ensure your compensation entitlements are protected, it is important that if you have developed a secondary psychological injury, that a workers’ compensation medical certificate is completed by your treating general practitioner or psychiatrist diagnosing the psychological injury and this document is then submitted to WorkCover Queensland. When the secondary psychological injury is accepted as being a compensable work related injury, you will then be entitled to all of the statutory benefits outlined above in relation to the psychological injury.
If your psychological injury was caused by the fault or negligence of your employer or another party, then you may also have an entitlement to pursue a common law claim for damages. A successful common law claim will include compensation for pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses, past and future loss of income, past and future loss of superannuation, past and future care and assistance (in particular types of claims and circumstances) and future medical expenses.
There is ordinarily a time limit of 3 years to bring a common law claim for damages for personal injury in Queensland. However, psychological injuries are often complex and sustained over longer periods of time or as a result of various stressors or events. In these circumstances, it is possible to extend the limitation period by 12 months if the injured person becomes aware of a material fact of a decisive character (ie. the diagnosis of the psychological condition or new information comes to light regarding the nature and extent of the injury).
It is important to note that time limits in relation to psychological injuries suffered by victims of child sexual abuse have been abolished by the Queensland State Government.
If a psychological injury is also preventing you from returning to your ordinary employment or any role within your education, training or experience, then you may also have an entitlement to pursue a total and permanent disablement and/or income protection claim through your superannuation fund.
Given the complexities surrounding this area of compensation law, it is imperative that those who have suffered a psychological injury obtain expert legal advice as soon as possible to ensure their rights and entitlements are protected.
It is also important that the community continues to promote and raise awareness around positive mental health through initiatives such as World Mental Health Day and Queensland Mental Health Week in order to continue breaking down the stigma associated with mental health and to encourage those people in our society who require psychological assistance to reach out and get the help and support they need.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental health concerns, please seek immediate assistance and support and we refer to various mental health organisations below:-
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
- 13 HEALTH – 13 43 25 84
- Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800