Mayhew-Hite Report        Mental Health & Mediation

Cory Martinson

On Friday, October 2, The Ohio Mediation Association held a meeting at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. OSU College of Nursing Emeritus Professor Jeanne Clement discussed how to relate to individuals with mental illness during mediation. Professor Clement’s accomplishments over a more than fifty year career in the field of psychiatric nursing and mental health are too numerous to name and she has been a part of countless mediations involving individuals with mental illnesses. She facilitated discussion focused on common issues, such as capacity, which mediators may encounter while conducting a mediation involving at least one mentally ill participant.

Professor Clement recognized that while some individuals with mental illnesses must be treated as “special” cases in the mediation setting, she also stressed that many participants with mental illnesses are capable of partaking in the mediation process. She suggested that there are a variety of steps a mediator could take depending on the type, severity, and symptoms of the participant to better prepare the participant for mediation.  Thorough mediator preparation will give participants a chance to fruitfully participate in mediation and  develop a durable agreement.

In addition to the issue of capacity, mediators may encounter participants with mental illness who need help maintaining focus, listening, communicating, or understanding the material. Mediators may also fear that any agreement, if reached, may not be followed. However, these issues are not unique to participants with mental illnesses. More importantly, in many cases, all of these issues can be abetted—if not remedied—through proper preparation on behalf of all parties involved in the mediation, including rigorous preparation and patience on the mediator’s behalf.

Professor Clement stressed that mediators should not allow the stigmas often associated with mental illness to lead to a presumption that participants with a mental illness will not be successful in mediation. Her message reinforced the notion that mediation is a process designed to give all participants a voice. While mediation involving one or more participants who are dealing with the effects of a mental illness may require additional patience and preparation, in most cases, this should not prohibit a mediator’s ability to facilitate the process.