RDC job posting revised after raising mental health-related concerns

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
March 12, 2018 - 2:43pm Updated: March 12, 2018 - 3:14pm

Red Deer College is admitting to a major faux pas in a job description on its website.

The posting for a job as a counsellor stated, “Due to ethical boundaries and conflict of interest, our program does not accept applications from students who have received personal counselling in our Centre while they were a student at Red Deer College.”

Second year Music program student David Heikkinen brought the paragraph to rdnewsNOW’s attention, calling it concerning and discriminatory against those with mental illness.

Heikkinen, 33, has used counselling services at RDC in the past to obtain guidance on how to fit in with younger students.  He says part of why the stated criteria is offensive is because health issues aren’t supposed to matter when it comes to applying for a job.

“Something that comes to mind is the opioid crisis. How are people going to come forward and get the help they need if they know they’re not going to get a job if they admit they're an addict? That’s completely defeating the purpose of trying to treat a disease or an addiction,” he says.

“I would say for an institution that’s going to be a university, they need to put a lot more thought into their policies. It's just ill-thought out.”

RDC Vice President Corporate Shelley Ralston says the wording at the top of the job posting was a mistake and that those who posted it are apologetic.

“It’s using older language and with the current environment and constant evolution of best practices, it was language that should not have been included in the job posting,” she says.

“It also, in the grand scheme of things, was a poor oversight because even if it’s old language or new language, it is still inconsistent with the values of Red Deer College, which are all about creating an inclusive environment where people feel safe and have the freedom to do their best work.”

Ralston says a recent employee turnover in the department which posts job listings may have contributed to the oversight.

She says as long as someone has all the other requirements, they would be eligible for the job, regardless of whether they’ve utilized counselling at the college.

Heikkinen, who also volunteers with the Calgary-based Foundation for Addiction and Mental Health (FAMH), was relieved upon hearing about the mistake and that the job posting would be corrected.

“We hope that responsible social actions such as this will provide a role model for future policies in both the public and private sectors, and it would seem that the RDC is on the right track to becoming a recognized university with a responsible and progressive reputation and we wish them the best."

Recent mental health initiatives at RDC include 'Make Some Noise For Mental Health,' an ACAC program promoted by the RDC Kings and Queens, as well as the 'Take Some Time' program.

Last September, the provincial government announced RDC would receive $205,000 per year for the next three years to address mental health issues.

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