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I don’t know how to help

Influence and participation can be a rewarding experience for staff, helping them to develop a deeper appreciation of the issues people with mental health problems face. But it’s important to prepare yourself for some difficulties you might encounter along the way.

The nature of working with and for people with mental health problems involves having to be prepared for times when things aren’t easy. Staff have reported that one of the most challenging aspects of involving people with mental health problems is how to respond when they talk about distressing experiences during influence and participation activities.

When someone shares an upsetting story

It’s important for staff to:

  • find a safe and private space to talk
  • if the person would like time to talk give them the opportunity to do this without it impacting on others taking part
  • listen without judgement
  • validate the person's experience
  • offer reassurance and signpost to sources of support
  • know your own limitations
  • know where to seek support for yourself

Lending a friendly ear can help, but bear in mind the need to maintain appropriate boundaries. You can find out more in the Planning section. It can be helpful to have details of organisations and local services to hand to enable you to easily signpost if required. This could include the Mind InfoLine, Samaritans, the local Mind and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Staff training

Enabling staff to have access to training can help them to feel better equipped in challenging situations. Topics could include:

  • Introduction to Lived Experience Influence and Participation (Service User Involvement)
  • Thinking about and managing risk
  • Facilitation skills
  • Mental Health Awareness
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Handling difficult / emotional conversations

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