Etiquette for Use with People Who Have a Psychiatric Problem
When you are with a person who has a psychiatric problem:
- Use an open, caring, accepting manner; find some common ground on which to interact
- Be genuine; like anyone else, a person with mental illness can pick up on a false or demeaning approach
- Try to understand what is being said from the person's perspective; be comfortable even if you feel this person's mind is working in a way that is different from yours.
- Stay calm, keep eye contact and retain a calm facial expression and body manner; what is most important is to communicate that you care.
- Use sentences and words that are short, simple and uncomplicated. If something you say is not understood, repeat the message, using other words.
- Be a good listener. Don't criticize, lecture, or argue. Try to be supportive. Treat the person with respect.
- If the person is angry, don't take it personally, and don't approach or touch the person without his or her request or permission.
- If the person is willing or indicates a need, offer to get the help of a friend, relative, clergy, or qualified professional.
- Focus on the person's strengths and what has been accomplished, and treat this in a positive way.
- Structure limits, behaviors and responses in an appropriate way. Ask for advice about how to handle limit-setting. In a non-judgmental and confidential way, ask your minister, Accessibility or Disability Committee, or Caring/Pastoral Care Committee.
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