Canadian Mental Health Workers Highlight Dangers of Their Profession

by Gopalan on Nov 13 2008 10:45 AM

Canadian mental health workers have launched an advertising campaign to highlight the dangers of their profession. They say they are subject to daily dose of violence.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPESU) has purchased bus shelter ads showing a woman with a bruised eye and reading, "No more excuses. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) must protect its staff from violence. It's the law.'

OPSEU and the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) went public last month, before the ads went up, about alleged violence in the CAMH centres.

OPSEU was not available to comment about the ads but in a recent statement, the union said the ads would remain to "shame" CAMH into addressing workplace violence.

Danielle Le Tulippe-Larmand, who's with the ONA, works at the downtown hospital. She said she doesn't think psychiatric patients are any more violent than other patients, though she sees violence occurring.

"People get spit on, they get hit, they get punched, they get choked — and on Sept 17, we had a nurse who was sexually assaulted," said Le Tulippe-Larmand.

The ONA, said Le Tulippe-Larmand, is not part of the bus shelter campaign, but she says it does sympathize.

"I agree with the message, that the employer has to put together a violence prevention program to ensure our staff is safe," she said.

Rani Srivastava, deputy chief of nursing practice at CAMH, says there has been ongoing work with the unions, and she's disappointed with the ad campaign,

"I'm saddened by that in all honesty because to me that's not collaboration and that's not working together."

Srivastava says there has been ongoing work with the unions to deal with violence, and doesn't think going public is constructive because "that further stigmatizes our clients as well as our staff."

A group working with CAMH clients also wants the ads removed.