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.

For more information contact access@uua.org.