These words displayed as a poster on the wall caught my eye when I was recently in a local school classroom.
Earlier in the day I had attended an event at which we discussed how we might help people with multiple needs using an approach called Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM). This was well attended and there was a lively discussion about the best way services provided by both statutory and voluntary organisations could help those people who had the most chaotic lives.
Willingness to change
A lot of suggestions were made many of which were about how organisations could work better together and how they should make it easier for people to get the right help in the right place at the right time. However the contribution that really struck me was from a representative from an organisation called VOICE who said that a person had to be motivated to change their life and this would happen when they were at rock bottom and could no longer tolerate the lifestyle they were in. This turning point would be different for every person but without a willingness to change by the individual no service could force someone to stop drinking taking drugs or committing crime unless they were able to do this by force, for example putting them in prison or compulsorily admitting them to hospital under the Mental Health Act.
Nature or nurture?
I wondered how well we understand what drives our behaviour . Do we believe that it is all in the genes and our nature is the greatest influence – so some people are born learners; or is it our experiences in childhood and beyond that largely dictate what we become? If we are not loved and respected and cared for as infants then we do not learn how to behave in a loving respectful caring way towards ourselves and other people. Therefore adverse childhood experiences need to be acknowledged and dealt with and their influence corrected before someone is able to live life differently.
If there is no agreement about what works how confusing it must be for someone who is having problems to have dealings with doctors, nurses , social workers, probation and prison officers, some of whom believe that it is their nature to blame and prescribe medication; while others think it is down to upbringing and so offer psychotherapy . And, of course, much support falls between these two extremes.
The point is that if MEAM is be successful then we need to be able both to recognise when the person is ready to change and to know how to help to assist the individual turn around their life.
The day before I had been to an event at the hospital about heart failure management and as well as information about the condition and its treatment from Angela Graves an Advanced Nurse specialist I heard Nick Hartshorne –Evans talk about how at the age of 39 his life turned around when he was diagnosed with heart failure after contracting a virus. He realised there was little support for patients after diagnosis and so started a voluntary group and now registered charity ‘Pumping Marvellous’.
The following day I heard Sir Bill Taylor talk about his life journey from very humble beginnings in Birmingham to having a building ‘The Sir Bill Taylor Futures centre at Blackburn College’ named after him. Sir Bill is Chair of the local Healthwatch and so in this role and as Chair of the Governors at the College continues to work on behalf of the people of Blackburn with Darwen helping create opportunities so that those who want to learn are supported and encouraged to do so.
Perhaps the message is that ‘You are never too old to learn or change and there are people around to help and advise‘.