Accommodating Mediation Participants (cont'd from page 2)

Making Accommodations

Our willingness or unwillingness as mediators to make accommodations for the participant who has mental health and addictions problems often reflects our own attitudes and values about these conditions.

Research conducted in the United States indicates that participants with mental health and addictions problems are not referred to mediation as frequently as others, including people with physical disabilities. This research also shows that people with mental health and addictions disorders who do participate in mediation tend to be compensated at a lower level as part of their settlement, compared to people with other disorders. These results suggest that various forms of discrimination relating to people with mental health and addictions disorders still do exist. As mediators, I believe we need to reflect on our own biases and assumptions about mental health and addictions issues as this will directly affect how we manage the mediation process.

Our Experience

Experience has shown that most individuals with mental health and addictions issues can successfully participate in mediation. Even people with severe psychiatric disorders can participate in mediation as long as they are receiving treatment and appropriate accommodations are set up by the mediator. The following are examples of accommodations that have been successfully used in supporting participants with mental health and addictions problems to participate in mediation:
  • A participant with cognitive deficits, resulting from a brain injury, is assisted by visual aids as well as frequent summarizing and repetition of points made during the mediation.
  • A person with an anxiety disorder is given frequent breaks in order to calm down and is allowed to sit close to the door so as not to feel trapped.
  • A participant with paranoid delusions is granted a request to have all electronic equipment removed from the room.
  • A person with Tourette's syndrome is asked to signal the mediator when their impulses have built up to the point that they need to take a break so they can release their impulses in a private room.
  • A participant who has difficulty managing their emotions attends the mediation with an advocate or other support person.