April 25, 2017

Given that adults spend most of their lives at work, managers, union representatives and co-workers are in a particularly good position to observe changes in behaviour or hear comments that indicate that a worker may be in distress or may be suicidal. The workplace itself may also be the source of trauma leading to significant mental distress. In this session, clinical psychologist Dr. Mike Condra will explain why suicide, self-harm, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are workplace issues, and provide practical advice on how workplace parties can assist workers in crisis and develop responses to workplace trauma and crises that protect the mental health of all workers. He will be joined by experienced labour lawyers who will explain the important legal issues raised by workers and workplaces in crises.

  • Suicide: What do we know about suicide and the role the workplace can have in reducing suicide? What link, if any, is there between suicide and unhealthy stress/overwork, insensitive management, and bullying/harassment? Do employers have a legal obligation to ensure that workplace conditions do not mentally harm employees in ways that may contribute to suicidal ideation or actions? What are the signs that someone may be suicidal? Do managers, union representatives, or co-workers have a duty to inquire into the health of someone displaying these signs? Should an employer require an employee to provide medical documentation that he or she is fit to work if it becomes aware that the employee has expressed suicidal ideation? What can managers, union representatives, and co-workers do to assist someone whom they believe may be suicidal? What privacy and health and safety issues arise if an employee talks about suicide? Should an employee’s talk of suicide be treated as a “threat”?
  • Self-harm: What form does self-harming behaviour typically take? How common is it? Why do people engage in such behaviour? What is the relationship between self-harming behaviour and suicide? Is it common for people to self-injure at work? What are the legal obligations of employers, union representatives, and co-workers who believe someone may be self-harming? Is it legitimate for other employees to be concerned for their own safety if a co-worker engages in self-harming behaviour, or are such concerns discriminatory? How should managers, union representatives, and co-workers speak with someone whom they believe may be self-harming?
  • Crisis, trauma, and PTSD: What is the link between crises or traumatic experiences at work, suicide, PTSD and other mental health conditions? What should employers and unions do to protect the health of workers who experience crises or traumatic events at work? What are the legal consequences of failure to take such action? Given that an employee’s attempted suicide can itself be traumatic for co-workers, how can workplace parties accommodate a formerly suicidal employee and return him or her to work while protecting the mental health of co-workers and respecting privacy obligations?