Mental health issues: dos and don’ts for assisting members

Listening, accommodation, and confidentiality are watchwords for dealing with mental health issues in the workplace


  • sensitize union members about mental health disabilities
  • ensure we have harassment-free workplaces
  • listen carefully and respectfully
  • recognize signs of mental health disabilities so that we can assist our members and direct them to appropriate resources
  • find out what assistance and recourse routes are available in the workplace and community for members with mental disabilities
  • be sure that members know their rights
  • find out if the member is competent and well enough to act – and if not, work with a health practitioner to get them there and ensure they are protected in the workplace
  • help members to navigate the various systems and recourse avenues, including their obligations in this regard (i.e. medical certificates etc.)
  • use union expertise to create accommodation plans that work
  • seek time extensions where necessary for the member
  • help the member accept the need for accommodation
  • minimize conflict and stress for the member
  • respect the confidentiality of the member (unless they are a danger to themselves or to others)
  • be flexible
  • assume the member knows what is best for him/her
  • always respect the dignity of the member
  • document every interaction with the member and the employer
  • get assistance when we need it


  • assume we know what is best for the member
  • divulge information that is confidential
  • label or stereotype members with mental health disabilities
  • act like a counsellor / therapist or give advice on how to address the mental health issues in the workplace
  • impose solutions or resolutions on the member
  • look for quick fixes
  • be inflexible
  • talk down to the member
  • tolerate “mobbing” or discrimination
  • allow opportunities for sensitization to pass us by
  • stop assisting the member because they are “difficult” or “uncooperative”


September 19, 2013