Thursday, December 25, 2003

Interpreters need more than language skills in mental health setting

"'We desperately need interpreters who are trained in mental health,' said Fran Peebles of the Mental Health Association."

"An interpreter who is not properly trained can make things worse, Peebles said. By summarizing what someone says instead of translating word for word, by inserting his or her own opinions, unskilled interpreters can convey the wrong meaning."

"Peebles began a training program for interpreters across the state this fall to introduce them to mental health terms and discuss the ethics, such as confidentiality and nonjudgmental behavior necessary in a mental health setting."

"The influx of refugees from all parts of the globe means a wider variety of languages are spoken in Middle Tennessee than anywhere in the state: about 70, according to Regina Surber with the state Department of Human Services."

"That makes finding an interpreter to accompany emergency workers at any hour of the day extremely challenging, said Kim Speakman, the emergency psychiatric services operations supervisor with Mental Health Cooperative, the agency that sends teams to respond to mental health crises."

"When the language is common, such as Spanish, the agency usually can find someone. But if the patient speaks Albanian, Somali, Kurdish or Farsi, then providers have to make do using a telephone language service or a family member."

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