Chronic stress in the workplace cause is being blamed for increased disability claims in Canada, but as with many mental health issues, its harder to make a case for a disability claim.

According to a survey Towers Watson, “Despite growing awareness and action, mental health conditions continue to be the most common reason for disability claims in Canada. Survey respondents identified the top three drivers of their short-term disability claims. Fully 83% cited mental health conditions (followed by muskuloskeletal/back issues at 76% and accidents at 37%). Similarly, mental health conditions are cited by 85% of respondents as a top driver of their long-term disability claims (followed by Muskuloskeletal/back issues at 76% and cancer at 63%)”.

Dr. Katy Kamkar, a clinical psychologist with the work stress and health program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), told Toronto’s, “Typically a taboo and misunderstood subject, depression in the workplace is more common than people may realize, with one in five Canadians suffering from mental illness in their lifetime.”

How do you identify chronic stress?

The Canadian Mental Health Association / Association Canadienne pour la Santé Mentale recommends those who think they might be suffering from depression to consider its three stages:

Stage 1 – Mobilizing Energy
At first, your body releases adrenaline, your heart beats faster, and you start to breathe more quickly. Both good and bad events can start this reaction: the night before your wedding or the day you lose your job.

Stage 2 – Consuming Energy Stores
If, for some reason, you do not escape from the first stage, your body begins to release stored sugars and fats from its resources. At this stage, you will feel driven, pressured and tired. You may drink more coffee, smoke more, and drink more alcohol than is good for you. You may also experience anxiety, memory loss, catch colds or get the flu more often than normal.

Stage 3 – Draining Energy Stores
If you do not resolve your stress problems, the body’s need for energy will become greater than its ability to produce it, and you will become chronically stressed. At this stage, you may experience insomnia, errors in judgment, and personality changes. You may also develop a serious sickness, such as heart disease, ulcers or mental illness.

Can you get coverage?

Keri Alletson, senior consultant and a member of the research team for the Towers Watson survey reports, “Over the past few years we’ve seen employers asking employees to work longer hours. At the same time, people are worrying about job security and their personal well-being.”

Workplace insurance and disability are closely linked and knowing what your insurance covers can help you, especially if workplace stress disables you from working. If you are worried about your disability claim being denied because it relates to mental health, you need expert advice—get a lawyer who understands disability claims and can advocate for your particular needs.

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