‘Mental health conditions are disturbances in a person’s thinking, feeling or behaviour (or a combination of these) that reflect a problem in mental function. They cause distress or disability in social, work, or family activities.’
Mental illness is the second-largest source of disease in England. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than many other health conditions. With this in mind, it is vitally important we adopt into all practices, measures to assist those suffering with a mental illness, where we can.
In this article we look at a number of important considerations we should consider adopting into our practice.
Listen Carefully and Ask Questions
It is important as with any client, that we understand what it is our client is looking for, and the ways in which we can help them achieve their objective and/or resolve any issues. In order to achieve this, we need to be able to listen to our clients carefully and try to understand why it is they feel a certain way, or would like to achieve a certain objective.
It is important to be aware that one service does not fit all. We should be taking steps to adapt our services for each individual client, specifically tailored to them, and take steps to address their most immediate concerns. We might consider asking more questions about our clients. If we can understand what it is our clients are experiencing, we can then adapt our services to make it more tailored to them.
There may be cases where our clients do not feel ready to speak to us about a particular matter. In this situation we should assure our clients that we are available to speak once they are ready.
In any event, it is important that we allocate enough time to get to know our clients, ask them questions and listen to what they have to say carefully.
Do not make any Assumptions
There are a huge number of mental health illnesses, many that we are familiar with, such as anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia. There are also a number of mental illnesses that we may not be so familiar with, such as Stendhal syndrome, Alien Hand syndrome, and Capgras syndrome. In any case it is important to be mindful that the same type of mental illness may not always affect a person in the same way. Therefore, we should be very careful to ensure that we do not make any such assumptions. This can be achieved by asking the client questions that might include questions about them and their experiences, on both a personal and a professional level, and by listening to their responses carefully.
Decide Actions Together and Stay Calm
When suffering with an illness we can often feel vulnerable. This heightened vulnerability can lead us to focus on matters we are currently experiencing that are difficult or unresolved. Often when a client arranges to speak to a Solicitor, or instructs a Solicitor to act on their behalf, there is usually something that has triggered their need to come to us for help or advice. At this time, clients will need reassurance, and trust, that we are able to and will do all we can to provide the best service.
This can be achieved by checking in with our client on a more regular basis than usual, opt for speaking to our clients via a telephone over sending an email or writing a letter, and setting out some time in order to review the next steps of their matter together.
When taking instructions from a client suffering with a mental illness, we should avoid putting pressure on the client. This can be achieved by setting a pace for the matter from the outset, and continue to review this at regular intervals as the matter progresses.
Where we are responding to the client’s queries, a response should be provided as soon as reasonably possible, and in a calm and coherent manner. Where we are unable to respond quickly then a holding response should be sent to the client so that they feel assured that their matter has not been forgotten.
By making decisions about the matter together, the client is likely to feel informed and somewhat in control of their matter. Any concerns about the difficult or unresolved matters they may have previously been concerned about are likely to be lessened as they see the matter progressing.
By speaking to the client in a calm and coherent manner, you will be making it much easier for the client to understand and take in what is being said. In turn, this will also make the client feel happy to know that they have instructed a Solicitor who will get the job done, whilst looking after their best interests, not only professionally but personally too.
For training or courses designed to help raise awareness and understanding of mental health, contact the Charity, Mind. https://mind.turtl.co/story/elearningbrochure.