Mental Health and Conflict Resolution Intersect

Friday, May 15, 2020

By Elizabeth Robertson, Communications Co-op Writer

Tyalor DossUpon graduation from Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) at Grebel and the UWaterloo, Taylor Doss (BA 2019) was hired at the House of Friendship’s Charles Street Men’s Shelter, and is currently working at the YW Emergency Shelter in Kitchener.

Through his work Taylor has noticed the way conflict-centred roles can affect mental health, and how his PACS courses prepared him for that reality. As an emergency shelter worker, one of his responsibilities is leading a conflict resolution workshop. “We go over strategies for how to engage in healthy communication with other people,” he explained.

While it may not be an official role, conflict mitigation is an inevitable element of Taylor’s job. He frequently uses the tools he acquired in his PACS studies. “I see a lot of interpersonal conflict because there are so many people and everyone has a story. Everyone is working through something. My ability to navigate conflict and mediate has been an important aspect of what I do in the shelter,” he reported.

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated Taylor’s already dynamic workplace. The staff are doing everything they can to “isolate people who are showing symptoms, screen individuals, clean, and use protective equipment.” They are working overtime while the shelter houses twice the number of people as usual. A major complication is that “referrals are extremely difficult, so we can’t give people specialized service.” An inability to refer clients to relevant programs, coupled with fewer landlords renting out housing, means that “people are stuck in the shelter with a lot fewer opportunities to help themselves.”

Mental health is something that Taylor prioritizes, yet he admits “when it gets stressful, it can be easy to forget about it. The thing about self-care is you don’t always realize you need it until someone else points it out for you.” He finds that talking with friends, family, and coworkers helps him stay self-aware. He noted the “importance of talking and being honest, calling out the signs of burnout in others and being open to others calling you on it.” He said this kind of a “call-out” isn’t negative—it supports each others’ mental health. Staying physically active and taking part in counselling also helps him to stay mentally healthy in a high-stress role. He believes that “counselling is really good for everybody. It’s a preventative and maintenance practice for your mental health,” and it needs to be destigmatized.

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