Our Oakville OfficeOur Ottawa OfficeOur Toronto OfficeOur Barrie Office
Home > Reading Room > Understanding Mental Illness
Increase Font Size Option 5 Reset Font Size Option 5 Decrease Font Size Option 5
Understanding Mental Illness
Within condominium communities, a growing area of concern surrounds mental health issues and how to handle them. In recently attending an awareness workshop presented by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), I took away the following in this respect:
  1. To the extent that they are not already, terms like “nuts” and “crazy” will soon be viewed in society as being insensitive and offensive – similar to how certain terms relating to homophobia, racism and sexism have come to be considered; and
  2. Mental health issues are not “black and white”. We must delve a little deeper to truly understand…and there are advantages to doing so proactively!

The CMHA workshop made a distinction between mental illness and mental capacity. While mental capacity concerns surround an individual’s cognitive ability to make decisions for themselves[1], mental illness does not necessarily incapacitate. Specifically, in the right circumstances, someone with a diagnosed condition and appropriate support can cope with it and function.

At odds with this message are some traditional mediation protocols which suggest that a party with a diagnosed mental health condition should not take part in mediation. To me, it seems logical that an individual with a diagnosed and appropriately managed mental health issue may very well be able to participate in mediation. The flexibility of the mediation process should lend itself well to accommodation, particularly if the need is expressed in advance and appreciated by all taking part. This notion was supported by a Wisconsin appellate court that recently determined an individual’s mental illness did not impact their cognitive ability to enter into a mediated settlement agreement.[2]

My concern in respect of mental illness pertains more to those with undiagnosed conditions. As a mediator (like most lawyers, property managers, condominium directors, etcetera), I am not qualified to make a mental health diagnosis; however, in almost every conflict I come across, the state of another party’s mental health is questioned. Often, such accusations are made in the course of expressing emotion and passing judgment as to the actions of another, perhaps in jest, yet almost always without a genuine concern as to whether the individual, in fact, needs support or a desire to help him/her receive it.

You may recall, several years ago, bed bug infestations became a hot topic in the condominium industry. At that time, we learned that the negative stigmas attached to those experiencing bed bug issues were resulting in an increased severity of outbreak and damage as a result of the wrong steps being taken to address an issue. For example, a condominium resident who discovered bed bugs might drag a mattress or other affected item through the common elements and place it in a communal trash area rather than report the issue, out of concern as to how he/she would be viewed by the community if identified. However, identifying the initial known presence of the pests would allow for their isolation and for steps to be taken to prevent them from gaining an opportunity to roam into hallways, otherwise circulate and ultimately escalate the problem. In many ways, mental health issues are no different – ignorance and stereotypes contribute to making situations worse and may discourage those with potential conditions from taking steps to get help. This fails to serve both the best interests of the individual and the condominium community in which he/she resides.

CMHA’s statistics provide that 1 in 5 Canadians experience mental illness. Applying this statistic, how many people may be impacted in your condominium community?

Property managers, condominium directors, owners and residents can embrace efforts being put forward to address the stereotypes attached to mental health conditions and delve a little bit deeper to gain increased knowledge. We can become familiar with the wide array of resources available to assist those with mental health concerns and help spread the word of their existence.

If nothing else, we can aim to become more sensitive with the words we select and to the ears they may fall on, each doing our part to help society evolve and make it that much easier for those who need help to get it.

For more information about mental illness, please click here.

[1] In the recent case of York Condominium Corporation No. 301 v. James, the court had the impression that a self-represented individual was “not fully aware of the import of these legal proceedings or how to approach them”. This sentiment is often expressed by those involved in cases where parties are self-represented; however, in this particular case, as there was concern surrounding mental capacity, a mental examination was ordered and, ultimately, the Public Guardian and Trustee appointed to be litigation guardian.

[2] In re Estate of Jackowski, No. 2013AP335 (Wis. App., February 18, 2014)

By Marc Bhalla - April 2014
Hons. B.A., Q. Med. - Mediator and Senior Clerk

Ext:  811
Email:  mbhalla@elia.org 
Toll-Free:  1-866-446-0811  
   View LinkedIn Profile 
   Follow on Twitter
   Connect with on Facebook

All of the information contained in this article is of a general nature for informational purposes only, and is not intended to represent the definitive opinion of the firm of Elia Associates on any particular matter. Although every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this newsletter is accurate and up-to-date, the reader should not act upon it without obtaining appropriate professional advice and assistance.

© Elia Associates Professional Corporation, All Rights Reserved.