Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a psychiatrist not a sociologist or social researcher – yet he knows what really motivates injured workers?
This comes from a psychiatrist – a profession renowned for drugging and medicalising everyone who walks through the door. There is ample research to show they are just as big a part of the problem as a lawyers. In fact, it wasn’t until I stopped seeing a psychiatrist along with bucket loads of anti-depressants that I started to feel human again. Money? what money? You have to be crippled and institutionalised to meet 15% whole person impairment. Reading this you’d think the old myth the so-called underclass of society were searching for easy money – Dr Ahmed needs to conduct some proper research before offering such an outdated and incorrect opinion.
According to Dr Ahmed:
The dramatic increases in compensation payments in the past decade or two, culminating in a deficit of about $4 billion, have largely been driven by massive increases in awards of claims surrounding so called ”stress leave” and ”nervous shock”, neither of which has any technical meaning in mental health practice.
Like all legal matters, what is legal truth often varies dramatically from what is accepted as medical or scientific truth.
In a public sector agency such as the police, NSW taxpayers have paid more than $100 million since 2005 to help fund a big rise in disability claims due to mental illness.
There has been a 300 per cent rise in such claims by police since 2005, exacerbated by a scheme that pays generous amounts to those claiming at younger ages.
The lawyers are often accomplices in a cycle preventing recovery. While it might come as a surprise to many readers that most lawyers are honourable, there is a minority who actively encourage disability and illness in their clients. Some lawyers actively discourage their clients from returning to work even when they are able – despite the sense of purpose and structure that work can bring and its critical role in a patient’s wellbeing – because returning to work will immediately impact on any compensation payout.
For this reason, many of my medical colleagues refuse to even see workers’ compensation clients because they feel the dice are loaded, that there is a host of systemic and psychological impediments to the patient’s recovery, like an unseen tug of war between good health and good money.
What might in the past have been defined as work angst, disappointment about a worker’s failed aspirations or garden-variety performance management, is now often considered workplace bullying or job-related trauma, which then gets transmitted through the lens of mental illness. The compensation path is an area where some spurned workers can feel a sense of resolution when the industrial process fails to give them one.
This is a worrying trend and might perpetuate, for these accident victims, lives of dependence and misery – and also cost them their self-esteem.
The trend occurs overwhelmingly in lower-paid jobs among relatively unskilled workers, many of whom cannot see any prospect of reinventing themselves in a fast-changing economy. The company collapses and job losses we are now seeing in sectors such as manufacturing and construction can only exacerbate this trend.
Along with a level of certainty about the future, studies have repeatedly shown that a sense of autonomy in work, regardless of the task, is critical for fulfilment.
It gives a sense of mastery over life, which when removed can be replaced by the experience of learnt helplessness, a psychological term for people who feel unable to control the events that shape their lives, like a raft flipped around on choppy waters.
Men, for whom the security of unionised labour in the manufacturing industries is slowly but surely becoming a distant memory, are experiencing a huge displacement from modern economic trends.
It’s been replaced by casualised, service-oriented work with relatively low wages.
In essence, their work has been feminised, a development exacerbated by the financial crisis.
Ever since we moved from extended families working on the land to wage slaves in factories or offices, we have relied on work for providing us with a larger share of our identity than before.
This is especially so today, in an era in which the ties that bind us to family and community are weak, leaving many of us more vulnerable to suffering any fissures that occur in the workplace as direct insults upon our sense of self.
Work can be a transcendent force, one whose presence gives us structure, security and a moral worth, even in the most sedentary, oppressive jobs. The alternative is always worse: no job, low self-esteem, fragile viability, no pay, no nothing.
Australia is a country uniquely placed for the successful application of organised labour. Mark Twain called us an entire nation of the working class. Our defining national events, such as the Eureka Stockade and Gallipoli, were, in part, predicated upon the underdog rising up against more powerful interests. But the lukewarm protests against workers’ compensation reforms, from nurses’ to firefighters’ unions, look like another chapter in the decline of unions as a centripetal national force.
There are some elements of the NSW government’s changes that have perhaps gone too far, such as the phasing out of payments after five years even when work is deemed to be the cause of serious injury.
Genuine, serious injuries do not suddenly disappear at midnight, five years later. The treatment bill remains.
But the reforms overall are a stinging rebuke to a fragile labour movement, for whom the decades-long loosening of mental health definitions will no longer be an ally.