The importance of early intervention and treatment for psychological injuries

Psychological injury claims tend to be more costly and usually involve longer periods of absence than physical injury claims.

A woman in hi vis smiles at her colleague in a manufacturing warehouse.

Early intervention and treatment are essential for psychological injuries and can make a huge difference in the long-term for both employers and employees.

Ensuring your workers are supported throughout the claims process will benefit their mental health and increase their likelihood of returning to work quicker as they feel motivated and supported to come back earlier. 

Benefits of early intervention

Early intervention programs have been found to have a positive effect for employees, including [1]: 

  • recovery outcomes
  • capacity to remain at work
  • the length of time away from work
  • the likelihood of further absence due to sickness
  • how they view the workplace.

There are also benefits for the employer and the workplace, including: 

  • fostering a productive and supportive work environment
  • demonstrating that management is committed to workers
  • increasing the likelihood of return to work
  • reducing the cost of incapacity and, in the long term, premiums
  • reducing indirect costs such as lost productivity, recruitment and training costs for replacement staff.

Better return-to-work outcomes

Research has shown that if employers are fully engaged in supporting their workers following a psychological injury, the outcomes for all are greatly improved.

A recent national study reported that one of the major factors associated with higher return-to-work rates was the employer's response to the psychological injury [2].

The study found that 79 per cent of employees who agreed that their employer had responded positively to their injury were back at work at the time of the survey interview, compared to only 52 per cent who did not agree [3].

Adopting an engaged approach to managing and evaluating claims will allow your employees to see that their employer is taking your injury seriously. To become a trusted and supportive employer, professionalism, fairness and open communication will also help manage ongoing challenges relating to the claim – irrespective of the claim's outcome.

Building trust and being transparent with your employee is also beneficial during the claims process and this will allow for insight into their experience, which will help you support your employee better.

What employers can do

Workers compensation is there to protect your workers who may experience an injury on the job, whether it be a physical or psychological injury, both are equally as important to treat appropriately and in a timely manner.

As an employer, your first response should always be to listen to your worker and ask what support they need. Not everyone has a detailed understanding of mental health, but with many resources available, you, as an employer, can proactively seek information and educate yourself on the tools and practices to best support your workers in their recovery. 

Identifying early warning signs can also be helpful in recognising that your employee could be at risk of developing a mental illness. 

Some behaviours and physical signs include: 

  • unusual or erratic behaviour 
  • unplanned absences from work
  • not participating in work activities 
  • not completing work tasks 
  • conflict with team members or manager 
  • difficulty sleeping 
  • dishevelled or change in appearance 
  • weight loss or gain.

At the end of the day early intervention is key. As well as taking steps to minimise mental health hazards in the workplace, if a particular situation or risk arises, employers should intervene to get their worker the help they need.

If your worker's symptoms persist, employers should provide support while a claim is being lodged and determined. It is best practice to continue to support your worker during this process to support a positive return-to-work outcome.


[1] Intervene early and know the warning signs. Comcare, Australian Government. 

[2] Return to Work and Psychological Claims – Analysis of the Return To Work Survey Results, Return to work in psychological claims p10. Safe Work Australia.

[3] Return to Work and psychological claims – Analysis of the Return to Work Survey Results, Return to work in psychological claims p14. Safe Work Australia.