Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

How to Conduct Interviews Effectively

How to conduct interviews? Here are some hints on how to help people feel comfortable discussing their feelings and symptoms:

• You should introduce yourself to the person. Some people may be confused or suspicious. You should clearly state your professional role and say that you wish to talk about the person’s recent health.

• To establish rapport, you can begin the interview with a general subject such as a recent news event. Many people feel more comfortable discussing personal issues when they can identify with the health worker, for example speak the same language and live in the same area.

• Empathy simply means imagining what it must feel like to be in another person’s place. Understanding a person’s symptoms and the social and family situation will help you be more sensitive in dealing with illness and will help the person feel more comfortable in talking to you.

• The golden questions should be asked of anyone who consults you. Any positive responses should lead to a more thorough assessment.

• It is helpful always to keep in mind the main types of mental illnesses and their symptoms. This is especially important because many sufferers may not openly discuss emotional complaints unless specifically asked about them.

• You must not appear pressured for time, for example by constantly checking a wristwatch! Remember that just ten minutes is often all that is needed to understand a person’s problem and guide treatment choices. Of course, it is better if you can spare more time.

• Give the person a chance to talk without the relatives present. Never consider people ‘unreliable’ simply because they suffer from a mental illness.

• Try to speak to the relatives as well. Some people with a mental illness may deny they have a problem. Some may not be fully aware of the nature of their behaviour. Relatives and friends can often give information that is valuable in making a clinical decision.

• Look at the person during the interview. Eye contact can help make people feel confident that a health worker is interested in what they are saying.

• Try to ensure privacy; this may be impossible in crowded clinics, but even here you can speak softly so that discussions of personal problems are not overheard by others in the room. Alternatively, ask the person to wait till the clinic is less crowded and then talk in private.

• Record key information for future reference, especially the main symptoms, current diagnosis and important information, such as the presence of any marital problems.

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