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Planting seeds

The power of effective support work

In this line of work, there are success stories and there are less than successful stories. The thing that remains the same, however, is that there is a constant attempt and drive to understand and channel the human condition.


By Gareth Ramsey

I have supported people with circumstances ranging from autism to multiple personality disorders, substance abuse, almost all manners of mental health conditions and many varieties of personalities involved in constant criminal life or simply destitute due to the nasty curve balls that life has thrown them. Having had a, thus far relatively short lived yet very fulfilling involvement with awareness and practice of Psychologically Informed Environment principles, it has become more apparent to me than ever that whichever background or circumstance the people we support rear from – no matter how disengaged they may seem at times or no matter how effortlessly some may appear to re-offend – I am now of the opinion that the perception that people do not care what people think of them is generally an illusion. In fact, I have noticed that in some way all people need validation even if the desire for it has been hidden and that the irony is that in some cases it is those who attempt to appear as non-caring about validation from the outside world whom tend to re-offend or suffer mental health decline due the fact that they feel some sense of social disaffiliation – due largely to invalidation from society in the first place. Their actions appear to represent their resignation of being outcast. Sometimes their actions are a tool for attention.


I have always considered the greatest challenge as a support worker to be the navigation between truth and illusion. I once supported someone claiming to have over 15 personalities and soon realised that to get to the truth and understanding of their host, I needed to connect with, and understand each different personality separately to gain the trust and attention of whom I was trying to support and assess. I had to play into what was in this case likely an illusion to get to the truth. But depending on the individual this may not always be unharmful and this is the nature of our challenge.

Truth is a wonderful thing, especially in its positive capacity. The times that I have felt the most success in the journeys I have taken with people I have supported is when seeing that one little glimmer of hope and revelation in the eyes of the downtrodden and broken when they are told something about themselves that they had forgotten…and that is that they are as worthy as anyone else is of celebrating their strengths and capabilities which they have gone so long without being reminded of…or believing in. We may not have the power to change people’s lives completely, but we do have the power to plant seeds…

Pictured: Seedlings planted at Dibden Road Hostel


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