A message from Ed Arvelin, Chair of OPSEU’s Mental Health Division
As members of OPSEU’s Mental Health Division we know that fighting for improvements to workplace health and safety is no small endeavor. As workers in the mental health sector, and with the full support of our union, we’ve been pushing for health and safety improvements and for the tools to reduce workplace violence for years. While much progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done.
As members of OPSEU’s Mental Health Division (MHD), we’re trained, mobilized and empowered; now is the time to take action.
Two things you can do right now:
- Sign the petition! Please print it off, share with friends, family and colleagues and encourage them to sign it too. Printable version.
- Write a letter to the Minister of Health, Minister of Labour and/or your MPP to tell them we need the appropriate tools and resources to do our jobs. Use the sample letter provided below as a guide! Printable version.
Improving workplace health and safety in the mental health sector
Choose the recipient:
Hon. Eric Hoskins, Minister
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
10th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C4
Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn, Minister
Ministry of Labour
14th Floor, 400 university Ave.
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1T7
Dear [insert recipient name],
[Start by introducing yourself, including where you work, your position and a bit about your own experience of violence in the workplace and its impact on you/your colleagues].
Across Ontario, workers in the mental health sector are facing increasing exposure to violence. As frontline workers, we are all too aware that many employers are simply not doing enough to control workplace violence; often they are failing to perform adequate risk assessments, and failing to put preventative procedures in place.
Just look at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. While I support the move to lay charges against Waypoint for failure to protect staff and for operating an unsafe workplace, our system needs long-term solutions, and as [Minister of Health/Minister of Labour/our local MPP] we need your help.
As workers who risk our health and our lives every day, we are frustrated. Workers have the right to be safe at work and to be free from violence while doing our jobs. Often, I and others feel afraid to go to work because there is so much uncertainty about our own safety [elaborate here if you would like].
With this in mind, we need better resources and mandatory staffing levels to prevent workplace violence. The right to refuse unsafe work is also an essential component of prevention.
Patients/clients are safe and get the best care when mental health care workers are safe.. But our health care system is not delivering on this. As workers, we need to see evidence of improvements at the bedside, in the dining rooms, in the hallways, in the waiting rooms, in the emergency rooms, in the community, and anywhere else where frontline mental health care providers work.
Our mental health care system is at a breaking point; the system has been plagued by underfunding, staff cutbacks, crumbling infrastructure and increasing patient demands, complexity and acuity. Our managers are rarely clinicians anymore, and decisions are being made on the basis of budgets, not what patients need. Patients need to trust their care providers, but trusting, therapeutic relationships are difficult to maintain when care providers are also expected to use physical force. Appropriate levels of security staffing are essential to positive patient outcomes.
Each day, my goal is not only to go to work, to provide excellent care to my patients/clients, but also to return home from work safely, to my family and my children. I fear that changes aren’t happening fast enough, and that it will take devastating violence, perhaps death, for the government to act and implement the improvements that the system needs.
As mental health care workers, we need the tools to do our jobs.
Here is what we are asking for: [include one, multiple or all]
- Appropriate funding for proper and consistent staffing levels, both for safety and improved patient care. We need a return to practical mental health care, where you have time to sit down, talk, and get to know patients and where there isn’t a revolving door of staff.
- The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Ministry of Labour need to promote the Violence, Aggression and Response Behaviours (VARB) tools – these are helpful resources created by the Public Services Health and Safety Association to help organizations assess security and flagging systems, do organizational risk assessments, and assess individual client behaviour.
- Appropriate funding to “fill the gaps” identified through organizational risk assessments, including, but not limited, to self-defense training for all staff and measures to improve consistency of treatment for patients across the mental health care system.
- Amendment of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to include health care workers under the presumptive legislation with respect to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Bring back the WSIB’s Workwell Audit to ensure employers’ compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Minister of Health/Minister of Labour/our local MPP, please help us get the changes our system needs. For frontline mental health workers, it truly is a matter of life and death.
[sign and print your name]