The staff in Victoria’s downtown core are the face of the city’s retail sector, but it can be challenging interacting with members of the public who may be in crisis.
In the first program of its kind, the Downtown Victoria Business Association is offering an online “de-escalation” training session for retail staff.
Executive Director Jeff Bray said it’s meant to help them manage a difficult situation.
“It will help staff and owners just deal with some of those interactions in way that are better for staff, and also better for the person who is obviously struggling with mental health issues,” Bray said.
At Ecologyst, a clothing store on lower Johnson Street, manager Graeme Cano sees the benefit in helping staff help people in crisis.
“Just designed to give you any tools if there is conflict in the workplace,” Cano said. “I think it’s geared towards customer service interactions. Which is incredibly useful to have, that too.”
The session is in response to a request from a local business owner who wanted their staff to help people in distress, or crisis, before calling 911, according to Jonny Morris, CEO, B.C. Branch, Canadian Mental Health Association.
“I think across the board we’re seeing increases in public community distress, whether you are unhoused or not,” Morris said. “Often that’s what comes to mind first.”
Morris said the de-escalation session may lead to a better experience for anyone who is visiting, or working in the downtown core.
“Often those situations can appear scary, and we don’t want people to put themselves in harm’s way. But often listening and responding in a caring way, and compassionate way before we immediately reach for the phone can be a helpful step in responding to that situation.”
The free online course takes place Aug. 24, at 9 a.m.
It can be assessed through the BC Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.