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Communication counts at Christmas

Video reminds of need to be mindful of inclusive communication needs this festive season

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A mental health charity has released its Christmas message which reminds people that ‘communication counts, even during the festive season’.

A video from St Andrew’s Healthcare’s Speech and Language team has been created to raise awareness of the importance of being inclusive to everyone’s communication needs.

A total of 273 people across the charity from 56 different teams agreed to take part in the video, which features participants using Makaton signs, British Sign Language (BSL) and other alternative forms of communication to sing the festive song We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Makaton uses signs alongside speech, in spoken word order, to support understanding and expression, and is largely used with individuals who have learning difficulties, but is also widely used in many different services.

BSL is the language of the Deaf community in the UK, which uses hand shapes, facial expression, gestures and body language to communicate. St Andrew’s Healthcare has a dedicated Deaf service for deaf or hearing impaired patients with complex mental illness, where over a third of the nursing team are deaf and all staff and patients are trained in BSL, ensuring greater engagement within the unit and participation in therapy.

Kimberlee Ferrari, Lead Speech and Language Therapist, said: “In a world with various languages, cultures, and modes of expression, recognising the validity of all communication methods is crucial for promoting understanding and inclusion.

“At St Andrew’s we look after lots of different people who all have very specific needs, some of which involve communication challenges. It’s because of this that we decided to make this video, to show that all forms of communication – whether it be verbal, non-verbal, sign, written, and technological forms – all convey unique nuances and perspectives.

“By acknowledging the richness of diverse communication methods and styles, we not only enhance interpersonal connections but also create a more inclusive and accessible society where everyone’s voice is valued.”

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s CEO Dr Vivienne McVey said: “We’re very proud of our Christmas communication video, which we feel highlights the importance of ensuring everyone feels valued and heard.

“You do not have to be an expert in Makaton or BSL to communicate with someone who may find mainstream ways of communicating challenging. There are lots of universal hand gestures or even facial expressions that can be used to have a conversation, just think about how you may have managed to communicate with you who doesn’t speak the same language.

“For many, Christmas is a time to spread goodwill and cheer, so what better moment than to put this heartfelt message out that communications counts, even at Christmas. Whether it’s a high five, a thumbs up, a wink or a smile just remember we all have feelings and we all deserve to be seen.”

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