Obtaining workers’ compensation for a mental illness in Illinois
A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in a person’s thoughts and behaviors. There are over 200 types of classified mental illnesses. However, some of the most common include depression, bipolar disorder, dementia and anxiety. Mental illness symptoms vary by person and may include changes in mood, personal habits and personality.
Mental illness’ effect on workers
Mental illnesses can interfere with an Illinois employee’s capacity to perform the daily requirements of their job. For example, a mental illness may affect an employee’s ability to concentrate, handle pressure, multi-task, remain energized throughout the day, interact with others, respond to changes and filter out distracting sights, sounds and stimuli.
Like physical workplace injuries, psychological injuries are also compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. However, in order for these injuries to qualify, they must be linked directly to a physical injury. For example, if an employee’s manager is verbally abusive in a way that causes the employee extreme anxiety, it is not likely that they will receive workers’ compensation benefits. In contrast, a worker that suffered from a broken leg and became depressed due to their inability to work may be eligible for compensation.
Under Illinois law, the employee must be able to provide several different pieces of documentation in order to qualify for benefits to cover the effects of a mental illness. An employee is required to prove that:
- They were employed by the cited employer on the date that the accident occurred
- Their psychological condition was either caused or aggravated by a physical injury
- The employer received notice of the employee’s condition
In addition to this documentation, it is also important for employees to make the distinction between whether they were the direct victim or bystander of the event that caused the psychological injury. The difference between direct victims and bystanders is that direct victims are those who suffered a psychological injury due to the effects of a workplace accident. In comparison, a bystander is anyone that witnessed the event. In order to prove that a person was a bystander during a workplace accident, the person must show proof that he or she was in physical danger, feared for their own safety, and suffered emotional distress as a result of witnessing the accident.
Like any other type of injury, psychological illnesses should be treated by a medical professional and the results of this treatment should be recorded. Even with this documentation and evidence, psychological injury cases can be difficult to prove and should be handled with the assistance of an attorney.