October 24, 2019

Being prepared to respond to workplace mental health emergencies is just as important as being prepared to respond to sudden injuries or acute episodes of physical ill health. In this session, clinical psychologist Dr. Mike Condra will provide practical guidance on how employers, unions, and employees should respond to mental health emergencies in a way that ensures the safety and mental health of everyone in the workplace. He will be joined by experienced labour lawyers who will explain the important legal issues that arise when workers and workplaces are in crisis.

  • What should be done to protect the mental health of workers who experience traumatic events at work? What is the scope of the employer’s potential legal liability for failure to take such action?
  • Is a panic attack a mental health emergency? What about crying at work? How should managers, supervisors, co-workers, and union representatives respond to someone who is experiencing a panic attack or is crying at work? What legal obligations may be triggered by these types of events?
  • Should an employee’s expression of a desire to die be treated as a mental health emergency? Should it be treated as a threat to the health and safety of co-workers? Aside from expressing a wish to die, what are some other signs that an employee may be suicidal?
  • What immediate steps should managers, union representatives, and co-workers take to assist someone who they believe may be suicidal? Might asking someone about being suicidal actually trigger suicidal ideation or action?
  • What should be done if it appears that an employee has been engaging in self-harming behaviour (e.g. cutting, hitting, or burning oneself)? Is such behaviour a mental health emergency? Is such behaviour a threat to the health and safety of other workers?
  • What might cause an employee to lose touch with reality? What behaviours are managers and co-workers likely to observe if this were to happen? What is the appropriate response?
  • Do the signs that an employee may have a mental health problem overlap with warning signs of potential violence? How should employers, co-workers, and union representatives respond if they are concerned that an employee may become violent? What are their legal obligations?
  • If an employee experiences a mental health crisis at work or the employer becomes aware of an employee’s suicidal ideation, should the employer require the employee to provide medical documentation of fitness to work? Should the employee be automatically placed on leave or be encouraged to take a leave?
  • How should workplace parties respond to privacy issues raised by workplace mental health emergencies? For example, what can employers or unions tell co-workers who have expressed concern about an employee’s behaviour or health? What if co-workers have expressed concern for their own safety?
  • Broadly speaking, what steps should employers and unions take to respond to crises? What are the three key elements of a crisis response?