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COVID-19’s Effect on Mental Health and Long Term Disability

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation that extends beyond physical impacts. This type of isolation, uncertainty and risk can lead to psychological trauma. The stress associated with self isolating and socially distancing can be overbearing, since humans are inherently social beings that thrive off interaction with one another. Those who are separated from their family, health care professionals working on the front-line, or have pre-existing medical conditions are especially at risk for experiencing negative mental health, due to high levels of stress. The immense stress people are feeling can develop into more debilitating mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), front-line workers are the most susceptible to experiencing negative mental health, due to the level of exposure they have with the virus on a daily basis. Front-line workers can be defined as physicians, nurses, paramedics, personal support workers, long term care home staff, as well as other health care professionals who are exposed to COVID-19 in their line of work. The elevated risk of contracting the virus on the job can create feelings of anxiety, since there is an overlapping fear of passing the virus to family members and vulnerable people. In Ontario, health care workers make up 1 out of 10 COVID-19 cases.

Front-line workers are expected to balance their mental health and well being, while being put in stressful situations every day. Health care workers across Canada are preparing for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases, though there are concerns over potential shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). When looking at hard hit cities, such as New York City, front-line workers have expressed high levels of stress, frustration and anxiety over the lack of PPE, as well as exhaustion and sadness from treating dying patients. According to a study published in JAMA that surveyed 1,257 health care workers treating COVID-19 patients in China, it was found that 50.4% reported symptoms of depression, 44.5% reported symptoms of anxiety, 34% reported insomnia, and 71.5% reported distress. The compounded stress front-line workers are experiencing will likely to last beyond the COVID-19 crisis, where mental health supports will be needed, in order to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Symptoms linked to stress anxiety and depression:

Physical

  • Headache, neck tension, gastrointestinal problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fatigue

Psychological

  • Virus related worries and insecurities
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Self verbalization that does not always reflect reality
  • Negative vision of daily events
  • Feelings of discouragement, sadness and anger

Behavioural

  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Crying
  • Insularity
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Increased use of substances

There is no doubt that essential workers are facing increased hardship and that the pandemic may trigger a pre-existing condition such as anxiety or depression and when you add in reduced access to medical services, this has the potential to be devastating for many of these workers.

It is important for workers who are suffering increased anxiety and depression or even an increase in OCD symptoms as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, to be aware they may be able to claim short and long term disability benefits, even if they themselves have not contracted coronavirus disease.

Links to information and help if you are experiencing negative health

https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19

https://www.ontario.ca/page/mental-health-services
https://www.cmho.org/covid19

References

https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/amh/if-amh-mhpip-disaster-pandemic-covid-19-and-your-mental-health.pdf
https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/stress-anxiety-and-depression-associated-with-the-coronavirus-covid-19-disease/
COVID-19 will be followed by pandemic of mental health issues: T.O. prof
https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/front-line-workers-residents-of-care-homes-at-bigger-risk-of-mental-health-struggles-advocates-1.4893007
https://time.com/5817435/covid-19-mental-health-coronavirus/
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/health-care-workers-make-up-1-in-10-known-cases-of-covid-19-in-ontario-1.5518456
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2763229

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Call your trusted long term disability lawyers at 1-888-GOKOTAK or (416) 816-1500. Our consultation is free and we don’t get paid until you do. We can meet you at our offices, a coffee shop, your home or a local court house. We can meet electronically though Skype, Zoom or WebEX. We represent disabled people throughout Ontario including Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, Georgetown, Orangeville, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, St.Catharines, Niagara Falls, Stoney Creek, Kitchener/Waterloo, Cambridge, London, Windsor, Markham, Pickering, Oshawa, Peterborough, Keswick, Kingston, Ottawa, Guelph, Timmins and other locations.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to supply general information to the public. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, as laws change quickly, the reader should always ensure the accuracy and applicability of such information with respect to their particular case. The information contained in this article cannot replace a thorough and complete review of the reader’s situation by competent legal counsel who has had an opportunity to review all of the facts.