What is work-related mental stress?
Sometimes work can be stressful, but when that stress contributes to a mental stress injury, you may need more support to recover. A work-related mental stress injury is a psychological injury or illness caused by one or more substantial sources of stress at a person’s work or by one or more work-related traumatic events.
How we can help
You may be eligible for support from the WSIB if you have experienced a mental stress injury that can be shown to have resulted either from a traumatic incident or series of incidents at work that are substantial stressors.
When you make a claim for a mental stress injury, we’ll work with you, your health care provider and your employer to get the information we need to know if your situation qualifies for our benefits and services. We generally cannot cover mental stress caused by an employer’s management decisions or actions, such as termination, transfer, changes in working hours and/or in changes in productivity expectations.
If your situation qualifies, the benefits we provide to treat work-related mental stress injuries may include psychological assessment and treatment, prescription medications, wage replacement, or return-to-work services. You will not be able to access benefits or services unless and until your claim is allowed.
How to know whether to submit a claim
By considering whether your experience meets our requirements for benefits, you can save time and find the right course of action and support sooner. If your situation doesn’t qualify for support from the WSIB, there are other places you can get support.
Mental stress injuries that may be eligible for benefits and services
People who have work-related mental stress injuries may be entitled to WSIB benefits and services.
To be eligible for benefits and services, your mental stress injury must have been experienced at work, and you must have been diagnosed by a qualified health professional (family doctor, nurse practitioner, psychologist or psychiatrist) as having a mental stress injury listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).
We base our decisions on requirements in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act and policy relating specifically to the cause of your mental stress injury – whether a one-time traumatic event, multiple traumatic exposures or substantial work-related stressors, such as
- being subjected to harassment, which is any behaviour that someone knows or can be reasonably expected to know is not welcome, such as unwanted sexual comments or advances, persistent following or invasion of physical space
- being subjected to bullying, a common form of harassment that includes behaviour such as intimidation, malicious rumours, gossip, or innuendo, social isolation or, coercion, humiliation, persistent insults, slurs and/or derogatory names
- working in a job that is highly stressful by nature, such as one that carries responsibility over matters involving life and death, and/or that involves routine work in extremely dangerous circumstance
- witnessing a fatality or a horrific accident
- witnessing or being subjected to an armed robbery
- witnessing or being subjected to a hostage-taking
- being subjected to physical violence
- receiving death threats, or threats of physical violence, such as bomb threats or being confronted with a weapon
- being subjected to harassment that includes physical violence or threats of physical violence, such as the escalation of verbal abuse into traumatic physical abuse
- being put in a life-threatening or potentially life-threatening situation, such as by someone tampering with safety equipment or causing you to do something dangerous
- being exposed to multiple traumatic events in the course of work over time
Examples of mental stress at work
We can provide benefits for mental stress that can be shown to have resulted from one or more substantial sources of work-related stress or a reaction to one or more traumatic work-related events.
Here are some examples of work-related mental stress injuries that would be considered for benefits and services.
- A teacher is regularly subjected to demeaning comments from her vice-principal, quite often in front of her teaching colleagues and develops an anxiety disorder as a result. If this situation resembles yours, you could be considered for benefits and services.
- A housekeeping attendant is regularly subjected to inappropriate and harassing comments from several co-workers. He attempts to confront his co-workers but the harassment continues and in fact increases, and he develops a depression disorder as a result. If this situation resembles yours, you could be considered for benefits and services.
- A paramedic is called to the scene of a fatal multiple car accident and afterward suffers recurrent nightmares and flashbacks for a prolonged period. If this situation resembles yours, you could be considered for benefits and services.
We generally cannot provide benefits or services for mental stress caused by an employer’s management decisions or actions, such as termination, transfer, changes in working hours and/or in changes in productivity expectations. We are also unable to provide benefits or services for stress caused by normal workplace interpersonal conflict or discord such as arguments and disagreements, unless it is malicious, abusive or amounts to harassment, including bullying.
If your mental stress is caused by your employer’s decisions or actions related to your employment, you will not likely be eligible for benefits, and you may want to look for other resources [link to bottom of page] that may be available to support you.
Here are examples of mental stress injuries that would not likely be covered because they followed an employer’s decision or action:
- A grocery clerk experiences anxiety after his employer changes his shift schedule.
- A forklift driver has been seen numerous times violating company safety rules. Her employer eventually suspends her without pay for continued safety violations, and she experiences stress because of the effects on her income and reputation.
- An employer repeatedly extends a probationary account representative's contract and makes no offer of permanent employment, causing the account representative to feel stressed and uneasy about his long-term employment prospects.
- A warehouse employee whose work hours have been reduced due to lower demand feels anxiety about her decreased income.
Should I file a claim for work-related mental stress?
How to apply for benefits
If you think you have a work-related mental stress injury or illness, you can submit a claim (PDF) for WSIB benefits. You can submit the claim yourself or your employer, doctor, union or another representative of your choice can submit it for you.
WSIB customer service representatives are available to help you from Monday to Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Call 1-800-387-0750 during business hours to speak with a representative.
What happens after you submit a claim
Once we have registered your claim (normally within 24 hours), we will send you confirmation of your application, along with your claim number and the name of the case manager who will look after your claim. Your case manager will call you to explain our claims process and may ask you questions to clarify information or get more information to help us decide whether to accept your claim. If we believe it necessary, we may ask you to see a psychologist in your community or other qualified health care professional for an assessment. Before we can make a decision, we will also need to speak with your employer and we may also ask to speak with witnesses to the occurrence or situation that may have caused your mental stress injury.
We will make our decision once we have reviewed your claim and supporting documentation.
If you have answered the questions above and remain unsure whether to apply for benefits, you may still choose to submit a claim for decision. If the mental stress you are experiencing did not result from an incident or series of incidents related to your work, you may wish to consult with one or more of these resources:
- Book an appointment with your family doctor or nurse practitioner. If you do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, you can register online to link with a family doctor or nurse practitioner through Health Care Connect or register by phone at 1-800-445-1822
- Speak to your employer about what supports they can offer (e.g., peer support program, on-site or telephone counselling through employee and family assistance program)
- Call Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000 and speak to a Registered Nurse
- Find free and confidential mental health and addiction services in your community
- Learn more about workplace stress and what to do about it with the Mental Injury Toolkit from the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers
- Learn about mental health conditions from the Canadian Mental Health Association - Ontario
- For 24/7 crisis support, call Crisis Service Ontario at 1-833-456-4566
- Find local crisis support or explore the Distress and Crisis Ontario website for distress centres servicing your community
- The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has information about mental stress entitlements and workplace mental health resources
If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide – call 911, go to the nearest hospital, or call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000