A recent piece in the Vancouver Sun highlights
some concerns with new mental illness diagnoses that likely are
coming to your workplace.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders is being revised. When DSM V comes out next
May we will see new mental disorders and broadened definitions of
existing disorders. It's important because the DSM is basically
the "bible" of psychiatry and is relied on by the medical
profession, insurers and regulators for identifying mental illness
and for verifying specific diagnoses. For one example, the DSM is
specifically referred to in BC's Workers Compensation
Act and will be the guide for determining whether there is a
mental disorder under the new Bill 14 bullying and harassment
here for earlier posts on Bill 14.)
DSM V is already controversial. Many of the changes no
doubt will involve highly technical matters on which it is
difficult to comment. But any layman with some experience with DSM
diagnoses of problems in the workplace can see a disturbing trend:
the DSM is growing in its scope and reach, and common human
experiences are being identified as mental illness, treated and
medicated with increasing frequency.
As the Sun's article points out, the new scope of
"generalized anxiety disorders" may capture the temper
tantrums of every child you have ever known. And more worrying for
employers, the stresses and challenges of work that we need for
motivation and inspiration, may lead to reactions more likely to be
diagnosed as mental illness.
It is already difficult for employers to identify and respond to
true mental illness. It is going to be more difficult to deal with
the new and broadened categories being identified in DSM
V. For now, one useful resource is found on the website of the
Canadian Mental Health Association. There is a checklist of warning signs of mental health
problems. Most useful, is the recognition at the end of the
It is important to emphasize that
people behaving in these ways may be simply having a bad day or
week, or may be working through a particularly difficult time in
their lives that is temporary.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).