I have just finished watching a short video made by Andy, one of our team leaders, in which he talks about his own experiences of coming to terms with a criminal conviction record as a way to encourage others facing similar life challenges. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDbhvItzmtM I think you will find it challenging and moving whilst at the same time presenting a realistic and optimistic message without a lot of emotive rags to riches stuff.
What I found refreshing about this piece was that it did not attempt to do anything other than inform and motivate people to make their life chances better, but of course it takes a lot of courage and integrity for anyone to share what may be deeply personal challenges in life. Perhaps most importantly this is an example of someone who is more interested and concerned about the welfare of others than their own ego, and who is willing to share their experiences if it helps others.
The fact is we all need encouragement don’t we? There are always times when life throws a brick at us, or we make a wrong decision, or everything just gets so overwhelming that we cannot see an obvious way forward. There is a lot of talk currently about mental health crises and increasing worries about the future, and it is no coincidence that this is on so many people’s thoughts at a time when communication – that is to say real contact where you can not only hear a voice but experience what someone is feeling and meaning through all the other signals we use as humans to convey things – has been denied us for so long. When we are lonely or depressed or discouraged or de-motivated what we all need are encouragers; those empathic and positive people who choose to share little bits of themselves with us, and who, in doing so, seem to provide extra strength or determination when we need it, extra clarity and common sense when we have lost it, and a shared humanity when we feel that no one cares or has ever experienced what we are going through.
Some of the people we work with in Apex can get most of their personal input from others working through the same issues as them and this can lead to, what we used to refer to as, ‘the groundhog trap’ when working with people in recovery. If the only people you meet are pre-occupied with the same things you are, such as drugs, crime, poverty and everything that goes with that ‘scene’, then every day is like a repeat of the last. In general people find it really difficult to understand what a debilitating trap this is, and if you never hear from any other perspective, you will never find the motivation to change.
This is why mentoring is so important. It is not a soft, cuddly, relational activity undertaken by a load of do-gooders, but a focused and vital process of breaking through the repeating cycles of self-destruction which hold people into their personal environmental and social prisons. As we come out of the pandemic restrictions there will be calls to increase spending on all sorts of things. I really hope that when the decisions are made about what that spending looks like, the focus will be not on new technology or new projects and schemes, but on finding ways of linking people together and reaffirming us as social beings who will only thrive if we help each other to do so. I reckon we need more Andys.