As a personal injury attorney, you deal with clients who have been through a lot — both physically and mentally.
You’re probably well aware of this. But do you know how to determine whether your clients are getting the mental health treatment they need?
Mental trauma often isn’t immediately recognizable, even by the most experienced personal injury lawyers. Your clients may appear mentally stable when they are actually dealing with a lot of emotional pain.
The fact is, anyone who’s been involved in, witnessed, or been injured in an accident can experience emotional trauma that affects how they function at home, work, or in social atmospheres. When depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and PTSD is left untreated, it can result in your client discontinuing medical care, which in turn, could affect the healing process and your case.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help you determine if your clients have psychological damages that need to be treated by a mental health professional.
Observe Your Clients For These Indications
When speaking with clients, there are several hidden clues to look for that could help you determine their emotional state. It’s a good idea to watch for these indicators as early as your first client meeting. This way you can make sure all of your clients are maximizing medical treatment to the furthest extent.
Clients who are dealing with Depression might experience:
- Poor Concentration
- Lack of appetite
Those experiencing Anxiety might show signs of:
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
You may also notice they seem to be blaming themselves for their accident, even though it wasn’t their fault.
People with PTSD often experience:
If your clients are struggling with Emotional Pain, you might notice signs of:
- Substance abuse
- Sexual dysfunction
- Caregiver stress
Ask Your Clients These Probing Questions
Asking your clients specific questions can also help you determine whether they’re showing signs of emotional trauma. However, it’s important to approach the topic with understanding and compassion. Discussing the emotional trauma they might be experiencing is typically difficult for clients, and you don’t want them to shut your questions down or feel like they can’t open up.
Start by saying, “I’d like to determine whether we should have you assess to see if you’re experiencing emotional damages as a result of your accident. Would you mind if I asked you some personal questions?”
You might also explain to your client that emotional trauma is common with accident victims and remind them that they are in a safe space. You can also explain to them that any feelings they’re having are absolutely legitimate and it’s okay that they feel the way they do.
People experiencing mental health problems, even those that are temporary or stem from an accident, often feel shame or embarrassment. Your clients need to understand that you have their best interests in mind and you aren’t judging them.
When you feel like your client is ready to answer your questions, you should ask them:
Since the accident…
- Have you been drinking or self-medicating more than usual?
- Do you have nightmares, flashbacks, shame, or guilt?
- Have you been more impatient with family? Maybe you find yourself shouting more often?
- Are you more forgetful?
- Are you sad?
- Are you experiencing a loss of appetite or a loss of desire to do normal social activities?
- Are you nervous or afraid to drive, ride in a car, or go to work?
- Do you get panic attacks?
- Do you have mood swings?
- Have you been avoiding sexual activity?
If you’ve observed any indicators of emotional trauma in your clients or your client answers any of these questions with a “yes,” give Family Psychiatry and Therapy a call at 201-817-4437.