Mental Health – Let’s Talk: A Personal Injury Lawyer’s Perspective

As I spent last week lying in bed sick, I have had the opportunity to watch many advertisements about the Bell Let’s Talk Day. So Let’s Talk.

I wish that mental health were but a one day a year issue. It is not. It is a 24/7, 365 days a year issue.

The point of Let’s Talk is to bring mental health out of the closet and recognize it as a legitimate illness like any other illness. It is not something to be ashamed of nor ridiculed or belittled.

Unfortunately, in the world in which I work, mainly personal injury litigation, mental health often is ridiculed and belittled and something that people want to keep in the closet.

In my many years as a personal injury lawyer, I have dealt with clients that have had significant mental health issues before being involved in an accident and I have also seen the toll that an accident can have on those pre-existing problems.

I have also seen hundreds of cases where mental health issues arose as a result of serious accidents and injuries sustained by individuals, including Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression etc. Post-traumatic stress disorder often arises when people are involved in serious motor vehicle accidents and requires understanding and compassion on the part of the lawyer that may be representing such individuals. Also connecting the injured or their loved ones with medical care for treatment to address their post-traumatic stress disorder, driving anxiety, ensures the best possible quality of life.

Another common mental health problem is depression. People who are involved in serious accidents often see so many things in their life change. One example is their inability to work reduces their self-worth, and the loss of income often leads to stress and internal conflict.

Chronic pain is also something that leads to depression, because of the inability to stop the unrelenting day-to-day pain. Studies suggested that someone who suffers from chronic pain in excess of six months is likely to suffer from depression.

I have listened to so many clients talk about how their life has changed after a serious motor vehicle accident, the loss of friends, work, recreational activities, and even family members who do not or cannot understand the mental health changes in someone following a serious motor vehicle accident.

Tragically, I have had three clients who have committed suicide, who had no mental health issues before their accident and have seen many others hospitalized because of mental health problems following a serious motor vehicle accident. To add gasoline to the fire they are often met with disbelief, claims of malingering and making claims of mental health issues up in order to get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

There are also arguments that as soon as the person gets the money from a lawsuit they will be just fine. Obviously receiving fair compensation does assist some individuals, because the stress of not having money to support themselves or their families is removed. Money however, does not and cannot replace the long-term mental health problems that many people suffer from post-accident. Nor will money allow a person to go back in time and restart their lives from the date of the accident.

The conversations that flow from the Bell Let’s Talk campaign are important and will hopefully continue beyond this day, chipping away at the stigma associated with mental illness and letting people find the help and understanding they need.

Nigel Gilby

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