Decline in Mental Health After an Accident – How Can I Get Help?
It is now common knowledge that mental illness affects virtually all Canadians, either directly or indirectly, at some point in their lifetimes. Considering that mental illness is common in the general population, it is not hard to understand that mental health disorders are extremely common amongst people who are injured in an accident.
I often see clients who either develop a new mental health disorder, or have a previous mental health disorder that becomes significantly worse, after being injured in an accident. It is also common for my client’s family members, especially those who are directly involved in the client’s care, to experience a decline in their own mental health.
Despite our increasing awareness and understanding surrounding mental health, it continues to be very difficult for those suffering to ask for, and receive, the help they need. Even those who ask for help often go without.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information about some of the services that may be available when you or someone you care about is experiencing a decline in his or her mental health following an accident.
First and foremost, if you or someone you know is experiencing a severe mental health episode, you should immediately call 911 or go to the nearest hospital or emergency department.
In non-crisis situations, the first step should be to see a family doctor or nurse practitioner. If the person does not have a dedicated front line healthcare provider, he or she can go to a walk in clinic. Front line healthcare providers can help provide early assessment, treatment, and can make referrals to the appropriate specialists. Continuing to follow up with your family doctor or nurse practitioner is important for symptom management, to monitor any changes in the mental health condition and can reduce the likelihood of having to go, or return to, the emergency department.
The London Health Sciences Centre has a number of programs set up to help those suffering with mental health disorders. There is a Mental Health Care Program for Adults, a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Care Program and two programs for older teens/young adults, First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program, or FEMAP and Cornerstone Counselling. If you live outside the London-Middlesex area, similar programs may be available at your local hospital.
If you have been injured in a car accident in Ontario, you will have access to Statutory Accident Benefits. Accident benefits are available regardless of who is at fault for the accident. These benefits can cover the cost of private treatment to help with any mental health condition that was caused, or worsened, by the accident. You do not need to have sustained a brain injury that directly caused the mental health disorder to access treatment. If someone experiences emotional changes, behavioural changes, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition because of a car accident, that person can ask for treatment to be paid through accident benefits.
When someone is injured in a car accident, that person’s family often experiences a decline in their own mental health due to the injuries and impairments their family member sustained in the accident. It is possible for family members experiencing a decline in their mental health to make their own claim for accident benefits and request funding for private treatment, even if they were not directly involved in the collision.
The provincial government and the Canadian Mental Health Association have set up a number of helplines and other resources which offer support in non-crisis situations. These helplines are free for anyone to call, including family members and friends who are trying to help someone they know is suffering from a mental health condition. Helplines can offer strategies to help begin recovery, can help find treatment services in your community, and offer basic education.
Some of these helplines can be found here:
- Find mental health and addiction services in your community
- Find mental health support
- The Support Line
Those who are suffering from mild to moderate anxiety and depression can access online resources to help connect them with therapists, provide strategies to manage symptoms, and offer support. The Canadian Mental Health Association has started a program in Ontario called “Bounceback”. A referral is required to access telephone coaching sessions. However, there is a series of free videos available to everyone. The videos offer tips on managing mood, sleeping better, building confidence, increasing activity, problem solving and healthy living.
There are additional services and resources available that are specific to children suffering with mental health disorders. These resources are also provide helpful information for those who care for children (parents, teachers, etc.). These resources can be found through the Government of Ontario website; Children’s Mental Health Ontario and additional resources may be available at the child’s school.
If you are experiencing a change in your mental health because of an accident, it is important to find a lawyer who can help you access the treatment and support that you will need.