Guide to Help Staff Deal With People With a Mental Illness
14 April 2011 at 10:50 am
A new guide from Sane Australia is set to give practical advice to service delivery staff to improve the way they deal with people with a mental illness.
The SANE Guide for Customer Service gives practical advice for people working in service delivery, to improve how they interact with people with a mental illness, and so they are able to provide a better service.
SANE Australia says whether dealing with counter staff, call centres or other customer service outlets, people living with a mental illness often feel they are treated differently and, on occasion, discriminated against.
SANE says at the same time, customer service workers may encounter someone who seems anxious, confused or distressed because of the effects of mental illness. Feedback suggests staff often feel they don’t know how to deal with people in these situations.
The resulting exchange can lead to mutual misunderstanding, impatience, and distress, with the person in need missing out on important services and supports, according to SANE.
SANE Australia’s Executive Director Barbara Hocking says many customer service staff deal with people with a mental illness regularly, without realising it.
Hocking says when difficulties arise, it is important to know what to do to get the best outcome for everyone – better understanding and improved communication skills can make a big difference.
The SANE Guide for Customer Service has tips on do’s and don’ts; practical advice on language; information on mental illness and how it affects people as well as how to help someone in a crisis, and several cases studies suggesting ways to assist using the HELP communication model for customer service staff.
Hocking says she hopes the Guide will also play a part in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.
Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University’s School of Social Work, Peter Humphries says the Guide reinforces the fact that customer service staff can manage difficult situations, if they treat people with respect.
Jeff, who has lived with schizophrenia for more than 25 years, says its important not to make assumptions about people.
He says one of the effects of his illness is that he speaks loudly and finds it difficult to moderate his voice. He says people tell him to stop yelling at them – they don’t think about what might be the cause.
The SANE Guide for Customer Service can be purchased from the SANE Australia website for $15 – http://www.sane.org/information/bookshop/details/72/23/sane-guides/sane-guide-for-customer-service