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Mental health issues are problems in their own right and are also risk factors for suicide among veterans and in the general population. An interesting report came to our attention in regard to mental health problems as workplace injuries. On one hand this is an unusual take on the relationship to mental health and the workplace. On the other hand it is an important insight in regard to factors that increase the risk of suicide throughout society as well in military veterans.

Most Common Workplace Injuries Are Mental Health Problems

According to a Las Angeles-based workman’s comp and benefits company, just over half of all workplace injuries are mental health issues. The company did a survey of 1000 workers, ranking US states by workplace safety, looked at Google Trends in regard to workplace-related injuries, noted OSHA data on fatal and catastrophic injuries, and reviewed Bureau of Labor Statistics data on non-fatal injuries.

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Workplace Injury Study Results

According to the study, one in ten workers have work-related mental health issues. These are more common than other kinds of injuries. They are ten times more common than chemical exposure injuries and nine times more common than head trauma. Researchers note that to a degree this should not be totally surprising. US workers increasingly rely on mental and cognitive skills in their work as opposed to physical skills and brute strength. This information has come to the attention of insurance companies that sell disability insurance. They are of the mind that preventing such problems is less expensive than dealing with them after the fact.

Mental Health Issues As a Result of Work in the Military

Studies by the Veterans Administration reported in the American Journal of Public Health indicate that more than a million veterans have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD, a substance abuse disorder, or another serious mental illness. Depression is the most frequent issue among veterans followed by PTSD with incidences of 13.5% and 9.3% respectively. These are serious issues and frequently add to the risks veterans have of taking their own lives.

How Much Mental Illness Is Caused by Military Service?

The clearest case for work-related mental illness due to military service is PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder was first defined in veterans and only later recognized in civilians who have been exposed to trauma. Depression is a frequent result of experiences in the US military although the cause and effect in this case is not always so clear. Anxiety disorders can be related as well but the case is often less clear than with depression. Mental health disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may pre-exist military service but be worsened by experiences during military service.

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There are a lot more physical perils in military service than in civilian life. Thus injuries that lead to service connected disabilities include things like hearing loss, tinnitus, limited range of motion of joints, sciatic nerve paralysis, neck and back pains and strains, respiratory conditions, skin conditions, and heart conditions. However, PTSD and anxiety are among the common reasons for service connected disabilities as well. The point is that experiences in life and in the workplace can lead to mental illnesses. Trauma is more common in the military and, thus, trauma-related mental health problems like PTSD are more common in veterans than in the civilian world.

Will Mental Health Issues Be Considered Workplace Injuries?

When someone has a work-related injury they get time off from work. They often get compensation while not working. Someone has to fill in at work and all of this cost the employer more. Thus there is an incentive to say that a given issue is not all that bad, not related to work or will not last very long. Sadly, the same story plays out when someone has been injured during military service. This issue is typically amplified when we are dealing with mental illness issues. It is easy to see that someone who lost a limb is disabled. It gets tougher when a person is depressed or having PTSD flashbacks. The issue in regard to veteran suicide is that conditions for which a veteran needs support and treatment do not get dealt with effectively and the risk of suicide goes up!

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