Australia is set for a sharp rise in workplace mental health claims because of changes in how mental illness is defined, workplace experts and psychiatrists fear.
The symptoms needed for diagnosis of some conditions will be expanded when the controversial Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) – known as the ”psychiatrists’ bible” – is released next month.
Psychiatrists and psychologists the world over have criticised the changes because they risk causing increases in unnecessary treatment and mis-labelling people. But the effect of the changes on workers’ compensation cases and workplace legal disputes may be even greater.
Unlike doctors, who could ignore the new manual, courts would not be able to avoid it, said Doron Samuell, a psychiatrist with expertise in workers’ compensation and insurance.
He said the lowered threshold for diagnosing many conditions would lead to more claims. ”You can be diagnosed with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] even if you are an emergency worker and you hear details; you don’t have to be directly involved in an incident,” said Dr Samuell, from medical risk management company SR2 Health.
Another concern was that in the past the manual distinguished between disorders considered personality-based and other conditions. But that distinction would be removed, opening the door for workplaces to be held responsible for problems. ”Even if you have a recognised pattern of interpersonal conflict, your bullying claims are much more likely to get a diagnosis,” he said.
A report from Safe Work Australia this month found mental stress was the most expensive form of workers’ compensation claim. ”Besides the burden work-related mental stress places on the health and welfare of employees, the impact on productivity of workplaces and the Australian economy is substantial,” it said.
US employment and labour lawyer Douglas Hass published a paper in the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal documenting the wide-reaching effects the changes could have in the US.
”The uncertainty will lead to less risk-taking in some instances and, undoubtedly, more legal challenges in others,” he said. ”The net result for employers and employees will be more money and higher costs.”
Allen Frances, the architect of the previous manual, DSM-IV, told Fairfax that when his taskforce reduced the number of symptoms needed to qualify a person as having attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, it increased by 200 per cent. Changes to autism preceded a 2000 per cent increase.
Courts should avoid adopting the new manual, he said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.