Stress, mental health and conflict resolution by Alison Love

April 24th, 2019

I have recently completed a Mental Health First Aid course. The reason for doing this course was to ensure that when I am working with people in conflict situations, I am taking full account of the individual’s mental health and that I am not unwittingly exacerbating any health conditions.

The course was very interesting, it consolidated my lay persons’ knowledge and previous learning and dispelled a number of myths; it also thankfully reassured me that the approach that we take is absolutely the right one.

Mental health is defined as “the emotional and spiritual resilience which allows us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own and others dignity”

Mental health influences how we think and feel about ourselves and others, how we interpret events, communicate, behave and sustain relationships and our ability to cope with change. It is therefore not surprising that this may contribute to misunderstandings between individuals and be a contributing cause to workplace conflict.

Some commentators express concern about proceeding with mediation where there are mental health concerns. I would argue that in the vast majority of cases, it makes the case for mediation or similar approaches even stronger and my reasoning for this is as follows.

  • Whilst I may have successfully completed the Mental Health First Aid course, I am obviously not qualified to diagnose anyone’s mental health let alone their ability to engage in a mediation process. One of the guiding principles of mediation is that it is an empowering process, so it is for the individual to decide whether they are able to engage in the process.
  • We fully explain the mediation process in the pre-meetings which are confidential 1-1 meetings. Any health concerns that individuals have (or that we may be aware of) will be discussed non-judgementally. This may include any support or adjustments that can be provided or things that we need to be alert to. We always check that individuals are willing to continue and it is not our role to persuade.
  • Listening non-judgementally is what we, as mediators, strive to do all of the time. The process is not about deciding right or wrong so we are neutral and non-judgmental throughout. Demonstrating empathy is also very important and enables individuals to feel that they have been understood. All of this is proven to be helpful where there is mental ill health.
  • We all have mental health and this will fluctuate at different times in our lives; 1 in 4 of us will suffer from some form of mental ill health at some point. Anyone who is in conflict and attending a mediation is likely to be in a state of anxiety or stress. Where this tips over to a mental health illness is impossible to tell.
  • Mediation and other similar processes provides a safe environment in which health concerns can be discussed in an open and honest way. If individuals do feel safe to disclose health concerns, this can improve understanding and appreciation of the impact of mental health conditions on individuals, reduce the stigma associated with it and understand better what adjustments might help individuals to manage relationships and performance at work.
  • Mediation is not an easy option; it can become emotional and difficult. However, it is far less emotionally destructive and damaging than alternative formal processes. Mediation is far more likely to result in a positive outcome which will sustain relationships and employment which are important in ensuring that mental health does not deteriorate.
  • It is consistent with the recovery based practice in relation to mental health which promotes self-determination and improvements to self-esteem. Mediation is a voluntary and empowering process which preserves dignity and allows individuals to move on from difficult relationships or conflict situations in a more positive way.

Ultimately, it is for the individuals concerned to decide whether or not to proceed with mediation. Our job and the role of employers is to ensure that all concerned are given the opportunity to decide for themselves and to decide on a fully informed basis taking into account the benefits and value of mediation and the alternative options available.

For more information about mediation and how it works and alternative approaches to resolving workplace issues please do not hesitate to contact us on 07808 829545/01446 760993 (Wales) 07766562730/0117 3739192 (England) or email us at [email protected]

 

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