DDN Sept 2021 September 2021 DDN Magazine - Page 20

STIGMA

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

One of the best ways to challenge stigma is through positive action , says Liam Ward

Stigma often exists where there is a limited understanding of a condition or a group of people . Negative ideas about these conditions or groups can permeate our collective understanding and form opinions based on stereotypes . The discrimination faced by those who suffer the effects of stigma can often lead to damaging societal attitudes – for people looking to live a life free from substances , these attitudes can damage their confidence , limit their opportunities and undermine their recovery .

It is for this reason that I find it so heartening to hear stories where those so heavily impacted by stigma directly challenge it through their positive actions . In late July , the service users at our Wirral Residential Service did just this at the Equilibrium Community Centre . When Equilibrium approached us and asked if our residents would
‘ Throughout Recovery Month , Phoenix Futures will be launching our anti-stigma campaign with a range of projects and activities aimed at increasing the visibility and positive perceptions of those in recovery .’
be able to help tidy up the grounds ahead of the opening this summer , their appeal was met with a resounding ‘ yes we can ’. The result was a complete transformation of the grounds and interior . I spoke with Equilibrium director Sharon Munroe who gave me an insight into what our service users did and what this means for the community . ‘ I can ’ t praise them enough ,’ she said . ‘ They should be immensely proud of themselves . They cleared the car park then weeded , planted , raked and mowed our outdoor spaces . The football cages were covered in rubbish and broken glass . They cleared all of that and brushed it all down clean . They painted and cleaned inside , bringing a training room back into use which we can now hire out to raise funds . And to top it off they even cleaned up the sandbox for the kids .’
The impact of this was that the centre was able to open on time , giving families a place to gather and for children to play . A summer scheme will go ahead , feeding children who would normally receive free school meals and the centre will provide wellbeing workshops , parent and child groups and coffee mornings .
‘ Equilibrium means the balancing of opposing forces ,’ explained Sharon , when I asked about the origins of the organisation . ‘ We exist because we know isolation and inequality exists , and unfortunately always will . Our research helps us understand what our community needs , and provide interventions that help address their issues .
When Equilibrium asked if service users at Phoenix Wirral Residential would be able to help tidy up the grounds ahead of the opening this summer , their appeal was met with a resounding ‘ yes we can ’.
We actively reduce stigma in the community by giving people an opportunity to raise their selfesteem and confidence . To hear it ’ s not their fault . To make them feel valued and build their wellbeing .’ I asked Sharon about her thoughts on the stigma faced by our service users and the people she works with through Equilibrium . ‘ I actually thought about stigma from their perspective when asking about consents for us to post about it online , but I didn ’ t mention their recovery as I didn ’ t see it as relevant ,’ she said . ‘ I always say “ there but for the grace of the universe go any of us ”. The guys who came to help out aren ’ t defined by being in recovery , they are defined by wanting to give back and do something positive . Everybody deserves another chance . Sometimes we go off the path and need help to get back on it . If we can be part of someone ’ s
recovery and help them feel part of society again that would be amazing to achieve .’
The feedback from our residents mirrored Sharon ’ s words – they spoke of the joy they felt in giving children a reason to smile , the good memories evoked in seeing a community hub brought back to life , the rewarding feeling of accomplishment and the powerful sense of contributing to something bigger than themselves .
Throughout Recovery Month , Phoenix Futures will be launching our anti-stigma campaign with a range of projects and activities aimed at increasing the visibility and positive perceptions of those in recovery . The actions of our service users at the Wirral Residential capture this message perfectly . Their selfless efforts directly challenge and subvert so many of the negative perceptions within society of those who use substances and exemplify what can be achieved if we don ’ t allow stigma to hold people back from their potential .
Liam Ward is residential marketing and engagement manager at Phoenix Futures
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