A key element in suicidal behaviour or idealisation is the feeling of helplessness, which arises from prolonged periods of [extreme] stress or emotional upset. For many [seriously] or ill injured workers this may include constant abuse from the employer or the workcover insurer [case manager], constant denials for even the most basic of medical and like care/services; …
…poverty [including for example drastically decreased wages or cut of weekly payments], terrible living conditions [some live in caravans], poor general health [i.e. lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of exercise] the [serious] injury itself, or even the real or perception of permanent disability.
It is the absence of hope for improvement that can and does precipitate depression and suicidal thoughts for many injured workers.
Take the following tragic case whereby a Northern Territory injured worker who suffered a wrist injury took his own life because of the way he had been treated by his employer.
Badly treated injured worker commits suicide
The legal case
The essential issue in this most tragic recent case is that many workers are badly treated before and especially after a workplace injury by their employers, and how this reprehensible treatment as well as the injury can cause serious psychological injury, which often negatively affects recovery, be it mentally and/or physically.
We all know how our work coupled with physical and psychological injuries can result in an injured/ill worker suffering from major depressive disorder, causing him/her to lose his or her (will)power to live, and to, tragically, commit suicide.
Facts of the case
In March 2011, a truck driver injured his right wrist at work, and subsequently underwent surgery and rehab.
The injured worker was unfit for work for about 6 months. He never returned to work but resigned from his job and committed suicide about 8 months later in November 2011.
The now deceased injured worker’s wife as well as 3 of his children subsequently claimed death benefits ( under s62 of the Northern Territory workers’ comp Act). They alleged that the injured workers’ tragic death was in effect caused by “psychological stress as a result of the right wrist injury, its treatment and consequent disabilities and the adverse effects and limitations on his capacity for work and lifestyle“.
More importantly, the deceased injured worker’s family also stated that he suffered from severe psychological stress because his boss was unsympathetic and dismissive of his injury and of his pain, and he also felt unsafe at work.
The Court found that the injured worker’s mood “got a lot worse” after his wrist injury and that he was scared of returning to work. At the same time he was also worried about not being able to support his family. The Court heard that because of these reasons the injured worker suffered from major depression, which caused or at least contributed to his tragic suicide.
Of note is that this injured worker did have a history of mental illness, and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2000, also following a workplace injury (back injury).
To add insult to injury and death, the poor injured worker’s employer (and obviously its workcover insurer) denied the injured worker’s suicide was workrelated, and denied that he suffered any psychological injury or stress.
Thankfully the Court (Magistrate J Neill) found that the injured and now deceased worker was in fact suffering from major depressive disorder prior to his tragic death.
Magistrate J Neil stated”
“I am satisfied on the evidence… that the [injured/deceased]worker was exhibiting and people in his life were noting symptoms of depression over a period of up to five months prior to the death, and particularly in October and early November 2011”
“I find that the very fact of the occurrence of the wrist injury to this already vulnerable man, his ongoing pain, and his concerns about the impact of the wrist injury on his capacity to work and support his family, all materially contributed to his major depressive disorder.”
“The worker’s suicide on 9 November 2011 was not an isolated acute impulsive act.”
You can read the full text of this case here: Tania Marie Luxford & Others v Gebie Civil & Construction Pty Ltd  NTMC 031 (18 December 2014)
Our thoughts and prayers go out to this poor man and his family, and we hope that in publishing this tragic case, injured workers’ employers (and their insurers) will reflect on how they treat their injured workers and what tragic consequences it can have. After all, we (injured workers) are all HUMANS who one day went to work to earn an honest living, only to be injured instead. There is really NO need to treat injured workers badly, on the contrary – injured workers deserve to be treated with compassion, empathy, dignity, respect and in a humane way. Employers and insurers should treat all injured workers like they would like to be treated if they were injured, or if one of their loved ones was!
[Article dictated by WCV and manually transcribed on her behalf]
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