‘Psychological injury’ on rise in Yukon gov’t employees
September 29, 2021
WHITEHORSE, YT – When you think of workplace injuries, you might imagine physical ones caused by operating heavy and dangerous machinery. But worker’s compensation boards across Canada are seeing increases in invisible workplace injury claims.
In the Yukon, the number of submitted “psychological injury” claims nearly doubled from 2016 to 2018 – and last year the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board accepted more than ever before. These mental health injuries are rising particularly in Yukon’s government employers.
The board announced these employers – including the territorial government, First Nations and municipal governments, first responders, healthcare and education workers – would need to pay higher board fees next year as a result of these injuries – and the cost of their claims, which it says are considerably higher than physical injuries.
This spike in claims is caused, in part, by an increase in workplace violence and harassment. The effects of this harassment and violence on people can include minor or serious physical injuries, temporary or permanent physical disability, shock, anxiety and psychological trauma.
This increase in workplace mental health injury claims isn’t just in the Yukon. In British Columbia, what WorkSafeBC calls “mental disorder claims” have increased in healthcare and social services employees, and they’re also rising in retail, education and agricultural workers. From 2018 to 2019 these claims rose by 24 per cent, held flat in 2020, and rose again by about 20 per cent so far this year.
In Alberta’s workers’ compensation board, numbers show a rise in psychological injury claims in government, education, and health workers over the past four years.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board numbers show that “mental disorder or syndromes” claims have gone up significantly in the last decade, from 512 claims in 2010 to 1,813 last year.
The Northwest Territories and Nunavut have also seen a rise in psychological injuries at work. The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission that deals with both territories saw the number of claims go from fewer than 10 in 2015 and 2016 to 28 in 2019 and 19 in 2020.
Liz Horvath (pictured), manager for workplace mental health for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which has been conducting regular national mental health polls in partnership with Health Canada throughout the pandemic, said more people are asking for help.
“We’re seeing … increases in anxiety and depression, but we’re also seeing more resilience from an employee perspective,” she said.
In a recent poll, the number of Canadians accessing virtual mental health services has risen by 10 per cent in the past two years.
“If there is any potential silver lining with respect to workplace mental health that comes out of the pandemic, it’s the fact that more people are paying attention to it,” said Horvath.
However, one in five respondents who did receive care reported finding access difficult. “We’re seeing an increase in people needing access to treatment, but they’re not getting it,” said Horvath.