Community Interpreters Speaking for Themselves: The Psychological Impact of Working in Mental Health Settings
Shakespeare, Clare Louise
Background: Community interpreters are employed to work across multiple settings in the UK, including mental health services, to support individuals whose first language is not English. To date, little research attention has been paid to the emotional impact of mental health interpreting on community interpreters. Aims: The aim of this study is to develop an in-depth understanding of the emotional challenges of mental health interpreting and the coping strategies employed by community interpreters to overcome these challenges. It is hoped that this research will raise practitioners’ awareness and help guide health services to support interpreters better, to enable the highest standards of care for clients. Methodology: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight community interpreters working in mental health settings. The interview transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results: Four master themes emerged from analysis: ‘Feeling for the client’, ‘Relationships in Context’, ‘Balancing the personal self and the professional self’ and ‘You need to protect yourself’. These master themes, along with the subthemes contributing to them, are expanded in to a narrative account of interpreters’ experiences. Conclusions: This study has underscored the need for increased provision of support for interpreters, as well as training for practitioners in working with interpreters. Guidance for improved working relationships between interpreters, practitioners and employing agencies is given.