MEDIATION AND MENTAL HEALTH
Shrudula Murthy (NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad).
Mediation is a system in which parties resolve disputes consensually with the aid of a neutral third party. The decisions so taken in a mediation are not binding on the parties and the information put forward during the process is confidential. The overall process is flexible, giving more importance to the people involved rather than the dispute in question.
People have greatly deliberated and established the benefits of mediation over litigation in recent times. It is well established that mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution have picked up pace and are slowly overtaking traditional forms of dispute resolution. One of the lesser known perspectives and advantage of resorting to mediation or negotiation to resolve disputes is the great advantage it has in preserving the mental health of the parties involved.
In today’s age, where there is an avid discussion on the importance of mental health and integrity of a person, it is crucial to look into the legal dispute resolution system and see how far it complies with these requirements. With increasing stress and the decreasing quality of life of individuals, it becomes imperative to look at all possible solutions which can improve this situation.
How is mediation beneficial for the mental health of individuals
Towards this end, the first fundamental principle on which a mediation is set proves more worthy than the traditional litigation system. The end result of a mediation is to produce a win-win situation for both the parties. The adversarial system as set out in courts looks at one party winning and another party losing. Not only the end result but the entire procedure looks at debilitating the other party involved. This inevitably leads to substantial toll on the mental health of the other party involved. Thus, through mediation, an environment is fostered in which the needs and requirements of both the parties are heard and used to bring forth creative solutions which benefits both the parties at the end of the day. It treats the individuals and parties so involved in the process with dignity and respect as opposed to a process in which no regard is given to individuals in the process.
This ultimately benefits both the parties so involved in a process. It creates a feeling of belonging and unity as opposed to animosity. Mediation fosters an environment which is conducive for the working of long term relationships among people. In case of disputes relating to employment contracts and labour union it is imperative that both parties retain healthy working relationships as they would continue working with each other even after the dispute settles. It is not healthy for an employer to be working with an employee who is hostile or resents them. Not only does it adversely affect the working of the organization but also creates a negative environment which is not conducive for a happy work environment.
Most importantly, mediation treats parties to a dispute as human beings with a background, story and feeling as opposed to merely party ‘X’ or ‘Y’ as in traditional dispute settlement mechanisms. It seeks to understand the interest behind the positions put forth by the parties involved in the process. The traditional litigation system, which is burdened with never ending cases, does not entertain anything other than facts which can be set out with proof in front of the court. No novel can be read and analysed without understanding the characters entirely. Now imagine if the court had to sit and interpret every individual in court at such length. No issue would ever get resolved. Mediation provides individuals with the time to be understood and heard. It removes the negative connotation or stigma attached to the word dispute. A dispute can now be seen as a platform where individuals are understood and is also seen as an opportunity to gain something beneficial.
In cases of sensitive issues pertaining to family law or property disputes, the parties involved usually know each other personally. In such circumstances, mediation provides a platform to resolve personal disputes without resorting to drastic steps. Many a times, a mediator has played a better role of a confidante than a therapist could.However, this also gives rise to an important problem. Mediators can not be seen as mental health professionals and most of the time because of the personal nature of mediation sessions,mediators are stuck in this quagmire. While a judge can not put forth solutions, the mediator as a third party can do that. Further, several mediations involve children. In such circumstances exposing children to the wrath of courtrooms and putting them on the spot light can have long lasting mental trauma. The setting of a mediation is more conducive and accommodative.
These advantages of resolving disputes by mediation can aid in protecting the mental health of the parties involved in the case. By conducting the mediation session in an appropriate manner, parties can walk away feeling satisfied and confident in themselves rather than feeling little and disappointed. The importance being accorded to the mental health of individuals is in line with the fundamental principles on which mediation functions. While much importance is being given to the efficiency of mediation for courts and organizations, people are starting to look at it as a more human approach to resolving disputes.
 FISHER,ROGER, Getting To Yes : Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, (Houghton Mifflin, 1991).  RICHARD LUEKE,MICHAEL WARKINGS, Harvard Business essentials:Negotiation, (Boston, Harvard Business school press,2003).  Mandy Rutter,Mental Health and Mediation: Is Mediation Always The Right Way, MEDIATE.COM(June,2014).https://www.mediate.com/