Ask 'them' what they Need
Within mental health and addiction, there is a long history of obsessing over what is wrong with people. Maybe it’s bad biology, damaged brains, or bad character and if we could just find the elusive bad gene, we might develop a better pill or a medical device to make them better, more productive citizens. Hmmm. That agenda has not worked out so well.
These messages have been funneled to the public over generations. Despite all the anti-stigma slogans, we have been taught to fear others diagnosed with mental illness as unpredictable strangers who might lose control and harm us at anytime. We must keep our distance because only experts can offer them help. When it comes to addiction, this same undercurrent of hidden madness is present, yet another vital judgement is added: They are doing it to themselves. We are taught that addicted people are manipulative, connivers under the devil’s spell who must repent and mend their ways. They can’t be trusted.
If these medical and religious superstitions were put on hold for a moment, though, and we engage people as people first, many of us come away with an entirely different view. We might hear that the things they need are very familiar and taken for granted by the rest of us. They might tell us that they need physical and emotional safety, meaningful activity, and know that they have a worthwhile place at the table with the rest of us. Instead of wondering what is wrong with ‘them’, take a moment, extend a hand and ask these children, men, and women what they need.
After all, strangers are just fellow travelers who we don’t know yet.
Leave a Reply.