How can we really support people to have more choice and control in their lives?

Helping people to have real choice and control over their lives has to start with a shared understanding of who the person is – what matters to them, and what support they need to be well.

Sarah Carr describes how a one-page profile has been useful in managing her mental health because of the way it is able to simply communicate these very points.

It is well known that most of our communication is non-verbal, and it is easy to make assumptions about people’s communication. Sandra is someone that experiences mental health problems and who used a communication chart to explain to her support workers what she was communicating and when. For example, it explained what painting her nails different colours really meant. This is Sandra’s story.

Jenny is supported by Certitude. Her story illustrates how a range of person-centred thinking tools enabled her to have more choices and greater control in her life. Shaun Lindley, who manages Jenny’s service, describes how person-centred thinking tools are making a difference in her life: “Jenny is 43 and is a very likeable, intelligent, witty and kind person. She has a 20-year history of serious mental health issues including long periods spent in hospital. Her various diagnoses of schizo-affective disorder, bi polar affective disorder, hypo mania and hysterical fugue have manifested themselves in significant symptoms including several suicide attempts, regular self harming, setting light to her hair and swallowing glass.

When Jenny first came to one of Certitude’s registered mental health services in London two years ago there were some questions as to whether she could cope with living in a community setting. This was due in part to the fact that it can be difficult to find successful ways to motivate and encourage Jenny to take part in activities outside of the home.

Jenny’s major self esteem issues mean that she considers herself to be evil, useless and ugly and believes that everyone dislikes her. She spends long periods of time isolated in her room not wanting contact with anyone, feeling scared and anxious. Jenny is scared of bathing and her personal care can suffer as a result.”

Shaun used a number of person-centred thinking tools with Jenny including  relationship circles, the perfect week, matching support, a decision making agreement and working/not working. Here are some of the results they achieved.

Matching support

Finding people that Jenny really likes to spend time with has had a particularly positive impact.  Through matching support, she has been able to make it very clear that she prefers to be supported by people that she trusts and likes. The team respect these views and now Jenny is largely supported by the three of four members of staff she has indicated.

Choosing where to go and with whom

In the past, Jenny could only name about six places she was prepared to visit and now the places that she goes to has doubled.  She used to refer to food shopping as a “nightmare” but now takes the opportunity to visit a different supermarket every week because she enjoys going out with the staff member who supports her. As she feels so at ease with him, she can be persuaded to try new and different shops.

Making her own decisions

Jenny’s decision making agreement covered friendships, money, home, holidays, medication, cleaning, cooking, laundry, work, benefits, family, personal care, food,  nutrition and shopping.  It has helped her to express her views openly and honestly.

In all areas of her life, Jenny has stated clearly what help she wants and how she wants that help delivered. If you are interested in person-centred practices and mental health, you may find this book useful.

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