How To Get Back Into Work After A Spinal Cord Injury

When you have suffered a spinal cord injury the idea of returning to work may seem like a daunting prospect. However, there are many ways you can help make this process slightly less overwhelming:

What is a spinal cord injury (SCI)?

The spinal cord communicates two-way messages to and from the brain and skin, muscle and organs of your body. Spinal cord damage occurs as a result of accident or illness and interrupts the flow of messages, leading to the loss of movement and/or sensation in different parts of the body.  The severity of this is dependent on where the spinal cord has been damaged in relation to the vertebrae of the back and to the extent of the injury.

spinal cord injury

The benefits of returning to work?

Apart from the obvious physical impact, SCI can deeply affect your mental well-being. Depression and anxiety are a very common effect of this type of injury. Obviously, returning to work isn’t possible for everyone, but if it is an option, it can have the following positive effects:

  • Renewed independence and confidence
  • Improve your general health and well-being
  • Increase your self-esteem and give you a sense of purpose
  • Allow you to earn money and feeling like you are making a contribution
  • Encourage you to socialise and meet new people

Know your rights

Make sure that you are aware of all of your workplace rights. As a person with a disability you are legally protected by the Equality Act 2010. This ensures that you are legally entitled to fair treatment when it comes to recruitment, promotion and pay. It also means that employers must make their workplaces accessible to you. This may be by adapting the office equipment to make it easier for you to work, e.g. speech recognition software. Or by ensuring that you meet with an occupational therapist to discuss your skills, abilities and concerns so that they can come up with viable work options.

There are also two government schemes that you can access to help with your return to work:

  • Access To Work – provides money towards the cost of equipment or support workers that can help you to work.
  • Work Choice – a scheme that helps people with disabilities who cannot be helped by any other work scheme, get back into work.

For further information and help on returning back into the work place visit GOV.UK here.

Finances

You may be able to claim government benefits to help you return to work. Employment Support Allowance is offered not only to people who are unable to work due to disability/illness, but also to people who need personalised help so that they are able to work if they want to.

If your SCI was as the result of an accident that wasn’t your fault you may be able to claim compensation. Specialist companies like First4SeriousInjury can advise as to whether you are applicable for compensation and support you throughout your claim journey, reducing the stress involved in receiving what you may be owed.

Before we get into those, let’s get into the benefits of re-entering the workforce. Life changes so much after a spinal cord injury, that going back to work can provide a semblance of normalcy needed by the survivor. Work allows the survivor to feel useful, engage his or her brain, apply his or her talents and experience, and make friends and social connections. No wonder why it’s one of the main goals of all SCI survivors following rehabilitation!

However, a re-entry that isn’t thoughtful can have negative consequences. To that end, we suggest the survivor spend some time being assessed and counselled by a vocational therapist. The vocational therapist will assess the skills, interests, and capabilities of the person, and will help him or her come up with viable work options. The therapist can also ensure that the work environment is modified in a way that gives the survivor the best chance of success. Survivors who had jobs with certain physical requirements may need to change jobs or careers following the injury, while other people can perform their prior jobs with just a few adaptations. In either case, what’s most important is that the strengths of the survivor are focused on, instead of the weaknesses. Most vocational therapists, working with both the survivor and the employer, will develop a strategy designed to help the person succeed.

Many parents ‘never talk about mental health’ to children

The BBC Health News reports that: More than half of parents in England have never spoken to their children about stress, anxiety or depression, a survey has suggested.

A poll of more than 1,100 parents found that 55% had not spoken about the subject to their offspring.

Of those, 20% said they did not know how to address the issue.

The survey results have been released as part of a campaign, funded by the Department of Health, to break down the stigma associated with mental health.

The poll, of parents to children aged between six and 18, was carried out by market research company Opinion Matters on behalf of the Time to Change campaign, which is being run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

It also found that 45% of parents felt they did not need to have the conversation because mental health “was not an issue”.

Mental Health

‘Generation for change’

One in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem, the campaign claims.

Sue Baker, the director of Time to Change, said: “This has to be the generation for change. Mental health problems are a common experience for three children in every classroom.

“Our research has shown that talking about mental health is still seen as too awkward for many parents and young people and we need to change that in the home, at school, on social media and in wider social circles.”

Last month, a separate survey suggested 62% of youngsters had done a general internet search for depression. And the Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield said youngsters did not have the confidence to go to the doctor with mental health issues.

Nadine Peacock’s 19-year-old daughter Emma experienced mental health issues in her early teens. She has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Nadine Peacock said: “My biggest piece of advice – make mental health part of everyday conversation with your child.

“Even if your child isn’t experiencing any issues, if something does crop up further down the line at least then they feel like they can have an open conversation with you about it.”

The Time to Change campaign has received £660,000 from the Department of Health.

Credit: BBC Health News

“The importance of our kids getting help from their parents to talk about mental health issues can’t be understated”