Teaching managers how to deal with employee mental health matters 

Mental health issues are commonly kept quiet in the workplace.

The fear of asking questions and breaching  confidentiality may be what limits talking about mental health issues in the workplace, says Marjorie Munroe, the Alberta co-director of the Workplace Fairness Institute, and a chartered mediator.

On Tuesday, however, Munroe will be showing Calgarians how mental health issues can be discussed in the workplace through mediation.

Though mediation “is not a disciplinary tool or an authoritative tool,” the Mental Health Mediation Breakfast, Munroe says, “is an opportunity for people in the workplace to see it.”

Joining her in the program will be, Michelle Phaneuf — conflict manager, and also co-director of the Workplace Fairness Institute — and Morgan Craig-Broadwith, manager of workplace mental health for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The Mental Health Mediation Breakfast takes place from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Located at the Kahanoff Conference Centre, it aims to provide insight to managers, human resources teams and employees on how the mediation process can address matters of workplace mental health.

Mediators help to generate conversation, both one-on-one and in groups, to “build understanding about what the employee is dealing with,” Phaneuf explains.

Mental health issues like anxiety, depression and stress can all be present in a workplace, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Craig-Broadwith says these issues can negatively effect with workplace culture, individual success and productivity.

While many employers expect employee issues needing mediation to be solved in an afternoon, Munroe explains that the process takes significant time and that it varies with all cases.

Phaneuf says these problems are also developed over time between colleagues. In some instances, “one-on-one conflict has been perpetuated by these employees for five years or 10 years,” Phaneuf says.

Munroe and Phaneuf agree that mediation is typically and unfortunately “a last-minute resort,” for managers.The Mental Health Mediation Breakfast takes place on Jan. 29 at the Kahanoff Conference Centre.

Photo Courtesy of the Workplace Fairness Institute 

“It’s at the point where someone is ready to leave or has been fired,” says Phaneuf.

“We believe strongly that an early intervention with mediation can have significant impact in the workplace,” Munroe says.” Mediation is a safe place for the employees to talk about their concerns; and that place of safety does not exist very easily in the workplace.”

The mediation breakfast will feature a simulation done by Munroe, Phaneuf and Craig-Broadwith, where the mediators will show a situation of an employee with a mental health issue returning from a health leave.

An audience of 20 is expected — so far. Tickets can still be purchased online for $35.

Craig-Broadwith says that more mental health issues are coming forward in the workplace and that, “There is a desire for guidance when it comes to workplace mental health.”

lpinhal@cjournal.ca