The way mental health concerns and aspects of people’s identities are talked about and responded to can cause shame and embarrassment for people presenting to the emergency department.
People often describe how they feel excluded or treated differently because of common misconceptions and stereotypes that exist around mental health conditions. When presenting to the emergency department with a mental health related concern, some people are concerned that staff may judge or blame them for what is happening. Other people report feeling that staff treat them differently or change how they communicate with them because of misunderstandings about people who experience mental health related concerns. When staff make assumptions about what a person is experiencing or what they might do, it can lead to distressing and difficult interactions.
It is important that emergency department staff are aware of common stereotypes and how these can lead to a person feeling isolated and excluded in their everyday life. Some people talk about the negative impact of other people’s responses to aspects of their identity, such as gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status. Understanding the effect of common stereotypes about mental illness and other aspects of a person’s identities can help staff to work with a person to identify appropriate and safe support.
- Understanding the impact of common misconceptions and stereotypes about mental health conditions on a person can help staff to reduce the shame and embarrassment a person might be feeling.
- Engaging with people on the basis of the concerns that have brought them into the ED as they understand them can help them to feel safe and supported.
- Being sensitive to a person’s needs related to aspects of their identity such as gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status, can help staff to provide appropriate and effective support.
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