Injury ManagementMental Health

How supporting an employee’s mental health can support their return to work

How could the complex process of workers’ compensation affect an injured person’s mental health?

Sometimes, one of the biggest challenges with recovering from an injury is not the injury itself.

It’s dealing with the unknown and the challenges that result.

At first, there’s the unknown of the diagnosis – what’s wrong, and how bad is it?

Then there are all the questions that follow:

  • Can I recover?
  • What is the treatment pathway?
  • How long will it take?
  • Will it affect my lifestyle and family?
  • Will I be able to work again?
  • How will I manage financially if there’s a period of time I can’t work because of the injury?

Add to these the unknown of navigating the unfamiliar territory of rules, regulations and legislation, waiting for approvals for scans or treatment to be completed, and not knowing what you can or should be doing.

Is it any wonder that a person can experience anxiety and stress about the situation, depression due to the new limitations on everyday life and work that the injury puts on a person, as well as emotions like anger, fear and frustration.

It’s easy to see why supporting mental health is as important as supporting the physical health in a person’s return to work journey.

What psychosocial factors can affect someone’s return to work?

There are so many factors and challenges that can have an impact on a person’s successful return to work.

Things like relationship status, financial status, and status of employment (casual vs permanent) are all important.

  • Were they happy in their work role before the injury?
  • Do they feel an injustice around the injury or the events that may have led to it?
  • Were there any pre-existing health issues?
  • Are they facing challenges accessing treatment due to availability or location?

All these and more can either assist or negatively impact the return to work journey and outcome.

How can businesses empower their employees’ mental health to assist their recovery?

The experienced team here at Interact can help you support your workers as they return to work.

We know that when an injury occurs, the most important thing you can do as an employer is communicate with the injured worker.

You should be in touch regularly (at least once a week), be empathetic and understanding, and offer support where possible.

It’s essential you educate them about the process so they don’t have to face the unknown, and they can make informed decisions around treatment, their support needs, and what return to work will look like.

One of the most important things to do is to reassure them their job is safe and that there are options to assist them back to work.

Working with them to develop a plan or pathway back to work is also an excellent way to put them more at ease and reduce anxiety.

If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), make sure your employee is aware of it and knows how to access it.

And finally, remind them they are a valued team member by keeping them engaged with invites to team meetings, team events and outings, or any other appropriate activity.

Do rural workers have different mental health concerns than those in metropolitan areas?

It’s hard to generalise, but there are some things that are consistent differences for those in metropolitan areas and those in the regions.

In rural areas, there is much more potential for geographical isolation and less choice or access to medical and treatment services.

These barriers to recovery and rehabilitation can create extra stress and difficulties.

Rural workers are also more likely to be involved in blue-collar or agricultural work, which is more physical and is more impacted by physical injuries.

If they need to pursue alternate work due to their injury and long-term impacts, it’s likely that there are fewer options and opportunities for new employment.

These factors can all add stress and impact a person’s mental health.

However, there is a positive side.

As a provider of vocational rehabilitation with a regional focus, we see how the smaller, tight-knit communities in rural areas can give a person that special boost as the town rallies around to support them.

If you’d like to learn more about supporting your employees’ physical and mental health as they return to work, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 1300 618 868 or

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