​At a glance

“Challenging behaviour is likely to manifest if they do not believe that engaging with you will support them to meet their immediate needs, or if they think that you are there to serve the needs of others rather than to support them.” (Orygen: The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health)

Behaviour which is seen as challenging can be a way for someone to communicate that they are:

  • trying to draw attention to a need or experiencing unwanted attention
  • attempting to let you know that something is wrong (e.g. they’re experiencing pain or distress)
  • frustrated, sad, angry or bored
  • feeling that there are too many demands being placed on them at once or struggling with over stimulation (e.g. too much noise or light)
  • frustrated because they can’t do something they want to
  • tired or under the influence of a substance
  • in an environment that is making them feel uncomfortable or distressed
  • struggling to cope with a situation
  • feeling threatened or at risk
  • feeling confused and not sure how to respond
  • reliving previous negative situations.

Have a conversation with the person to try and identify the need that they are trying to meet.

- A person with lived experience of a mental health condition

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… working collaboratively with the person to try and identify the need that is driving the behaviour. This is the most important thing to do.

- A person with lived experience of a mental health condition

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Some principles to engage with a person with challenging behaviours are:

  • try to understand and avoid blaming the person
  • don’t take the behaviour personally
  • reassure them that you are there to support them and that you would like to work with them to understand how you can best do that
  • use a recovery oriented approach, explore their strengths, try to empower the person and share decision making
  • check in to ensure your understanding of things is right
  • explore if there is anything practical you can do to assist.

(Adapted from Orygen: The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health)

Remember, when there is behaviour that you feel is challenging, it is important to try and understand why it is occurring, and what the message behind it is. Each person is different, so don’t make assumption. It is best to ask.

Resources

Caring for someone with challenging or changing behaviours
This web page, for carers, lists strategies to help manage better in a caring role.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Produced by: Carer Gateway

Current as at: Monday 20 January 2020
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch