Who can you turn to?

May 4, 2017

Your closest union contact is probably your steward. The steward is a member of your local. In most unions, the steward’s role is to assist members with their rights under the collective agreement. The steward’s responsibilities include being an ally for members, working with you to ensure you get necessary accommodations, representing you in meetings with the employer, helping you understand your benefits, and making your return to work easier if you have to take time off.

If you don’t know who your steward is, ask other members of your local. You may also be able to find it on your union’s website or on a bulletin board at work.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma around mental illness. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your steward, you can turn to other people in your union, like the elected members of your local executive, or someone on the human rights or health and safety committees.

Whoever you approach, make clear to them what you are comfortable having them disclose to your employer or co-workers. You have the right to privacy when it comes to your own medical information. You might feel that you want to talk about your mental health, but you don’t have to unless you choose to.

Discipline vs health care

If you have mental health challenges, you might find yourself struggling at work. Maybe you are absent more often than usual, or work is piling up and you are falling farther and farther behind. Or maybe you are having a hard time dealing with trauma. Your manager might not understand what’s going on and could give you a warning or discipline you.

You should never face discipline because of your mental health. If this has happened to you, contact someone in your union so they can talk to your manager about stopping any discipline and making sure the employer understands this is a health issue. Your union can help you figure out what benefits you have available to support you and what accommodations you might need in workplace.