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Mental health issues after an accident

Have you ever suffered an injury that turned your life upside down? Whether on the road, at work or in a public place, accidents can happen in a split second and leave a variety of lasting impacts. The physical effects might range from minor muscle and joint pain to a severe reduction in mobility. Yet while the initial focus may be on treating these ailments, research has found that over 70% of injury victims suffer mental health issues after an accident.

This alarming statistic comes from a study conducted by National Accident Helpline, a firm supporting people in making medical negligence and personal injury compensation claims. Below we dive deeper into its findings on the mental effects of injuries.

Common mental health issues suffered after an accident

Though often not immediately obvious, the mental side effects of physical injuries can change the way people feel about themselves and many aspects of their day-to-day lives.

One-third of those surveyed reported feeling stressed or anxious as they got to grips with their new reality. One in five struggled to sleep, while depression, panic attacks and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder were also common.

These findings show that the recovery period after an injury can extend far beyond the moment someone completes their physical treatment.

Over half said their full recovery had taken much longer than expected, leaving many worried to return to the site of the accident or even leave home.

The fear of impacts on work and income

Inability to work is understandably a key concern after suffering a physical injury. 55% reported losing out on income as a result – and no longer being able to provide for yourself or those around you can add even greater pressure during the recovery period.

47% said they had been worried about returning to work, whether due to their reduced ability to perform certain tasks or because of fearing being treated differently by managers or colleagues.

Perhaps more shockingly, over half had worried about losing their jobs altogether.

Creating problems at home

Difficulty to work or get back to other normal routines is bound to put a strain on loved ones too.

Almost half of those surveyed said their mental health issues after an accident had caused problems with their partner. Over a third experienced issues with friends and family, while more than 50% of parents had been unable to look after their children in the same way.

Feeling as if your role or identity has changed can come as a shock. One respondent, Hayley, said:

My partner was really concerned about me. It was like living with somebody else who he didn’t know.

How to tackle mental health issues post-injury

Tom Fitzgerald, Managing Director of National Accident Helpline, said:

After an accident, we rush to treat the physical injury – but in the days and months which follow, its impact can be felt far beyond the physical pain.

But there are steps you can take to help. First and foremost, reaching out to others is more constructive than sitting in silence. As well as loved ones, that could include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, medication, meditation and support groups.

Talk to your doctor. Although you should avoid medication if possible, your GP may be able to refer you to a social prescriber/link worker who could signpost you to a range of non-medical support options available in your local community.

Exercise is important. Apart from helping to keep you physically fit, exercise also affects your brain. Being in nature also promotes mental and physical health benefits. Professor Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, says that even a five-minute dose of nature brings immediate wellbeing. 

And, of course, be mindful of your diet. It’s easy to be tempted by comfort foods such as sugary treats and take-aways, but a good diet has a direct impact on mental wellbeing as well as physical wellbeing. The gut-brain connection is an extremely powerful one!

Being open with your employer is also important, even if your injury is their fault. Workplace accidents are relatively common – there were 581,000 recorded in the UK between 2018 and 2019 – and it is illegal for employers to discriminate because of an injury.

You may be able to arrange a phased return or have elements of your environment or workload adapted.

Finally, seeking compensation is more than justified if your accident wasn’t your fault. You could get financial support for loss of earnings, treatment costs and more to help you get your life back on track. But if you do consider seeking compensation, ensure you use a reputable solicitor or company specialising in accident claims and don’t be tempted to use companies that contact you by cold calling.

Image by succo from Pixabay

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