People injured at work are increasingly likely to suffer from a secondary mental health condition, according to Allianz Australia.
Allianz’s data shows the number of people injured at work who go on to experience a secondary psychological injury has jumped significantly: in NSW alone it has increased by 50% over the past five years.
Speaking at the National Workers Compensation Summit on 20 February in Sydney, Allianz General Manager Government Services, Mark Pittman, said this highlighted the need for workers compensation insurers to transform their approach to how they support the recovery of people injured at work.
“A focus on more than just the physical injury is needed to effectively support workers and reduce the risk of secondary psychological conditions,” Mr Pittman said.
“Isolation is a very real issue for workers in the recovery process – being away from their workplace can cause feelings of identity loss, inability to contribute economically to their households, and feelings of separation from their social networks.”
In response to the surge of mental health issues resulting from workplace injury claims, Allianz has launched an industry-first program that focuses on connecting people with the health benefits of work sooner. The program, known as StartSMART, uses a biopsychosocial approach to assess the worker’s mental readiness to return to health and then provides access to wellness consultants to help the individual take control of their recovery.
“The rising trend of mental health issues shows that the traditional medical approach to supporting worker recovery is flawed. The ideal approach is to review the worker’s situation holistically and account for their injury as well as their wellbeing. Secondly, we need all stakeholders involved in the recovery process working together,” Mr Pittman said.
“In pioneering our SMART programs, we have found that collaboration with employers, health providers as well as the worker has been key to expediting the worker’s recovery. For example, we co-designed our StartSMART program with icare and the NSW Department of Education with early indicators showing more workers are returning to pre-injury duties within four to six weeks of commencing the program.”
Mr Pittman concluded by saying that industry-wide collaboration was critical to developing a new approach to worker recovery: “We need to be doing more than addressing just the physical injury when it comes to workers compensation. If we can truly collaborate as insurers, employers and employees, we will be able to positively change the workers compensation experience; we’ll be able to positively change lives.”