STOP THE STIGMA
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
My half-brother, Michael, is the reason why I want to bring this change to other people’s minds. When my brother was my age (17), his father passed away and it really affected him. He barely finished high school and our older sister Ashley, who shared the same father as Michael, was the most heart broken that she has ever been in her whole life. While my sister learned to cope in a healthy manner by surrounding herself with her father’s side of the family for a while, Michael had a harder time processing what happened. He started by moving out of the house with our mom and step-dad and continued to make bad choices along the road. Eventually, Michael found himself homeless for a short time and didn’t tell us. He stopped talking to us and lost his job. When we offered help, he refused and got even more upset than he was before. Unfortunately, nothing has changed as of now, but I know he is only just improving and realizing what he has done is wrong not only for himself, but for the rest of our family.
Because of this, I thought it would be a great idea for families in similar situations to go to events where families can reconnect and have a good time and meet other people. I believe it is important for families to stick together through all stages in life and I want to be able to help other families do so in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel obligated or guilty for their past mistakes and actions.
The challenge in creating this project is to change the stigma in our society of families that have members who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The project will help accomplish them by showing that families can have have a good time despite the big elephant in the room. I think it is important to change this stigma because the current one assumes that those in this situation are not a functioning family or can never be the same after someone has gone through an addiction. If we can change it to something like families who have an addict are there to support each other through the toughest parts in life and maybe will never go back to how things were before, but will be able to re-build stronger relationships within themselves.
Since this project involves people who are going through a lot of mental health challenges including the addict as well as all other family members, it will be challenging to create an environment where tension will not arise as well as where people might feel pressured because of the objective/purpose of the project. However, making sure these things don’t happen or that one ever feels guilty for their background and past actions is really important to the program and I want to provide anything I can for the families to get closer such as hold classes for the other family members and teaching them how to deal with tough situations like relapse, or even just an argument.
What I want to create is a program where we plan events such as a BBQ or movie night and invite families with at least one member that has recently entered a rehabilitation program. The Tea Talk would ideally include people sharing their experiences either as the addict and how hey felt after re-joining their families. It would also have people who are part of families who might still be struggling and have them share their struggles. I think having a professional in the room that could give advice to these families would be great (disclaimer: I don’t want it to be like a family counseling session, but rather have someone there to give everyone suggestions on what to do). The families will engage with each other, we will have speakers and plan games and such to break the ice and have music. Generally, both events will be a place where families can go to relax or spend time with each other and meet others who are in similar situations.
More on why the professional should be present at the events:
Use calm tones, words that won’t offend anyone, and never snap back, just respond with questions on how you can help them or ask questions in polite manners that also won’t offend anyone. Provide solutions to the problem the person is having and what examples of what the family could do. [I have reached out to programs about making such classes happen and am waiting for responses.]
I have reached out to a local rehabilitation centers as well as family help centers and presented the project to them, but have not gotten any responses.
Hopefully with the rehabilitation center, I will be able to encourage them to host an event for those who feel comfortable doing so and making sure it is a safe place for both the patient and family. If this goes through, the best way people can contribute is by donating to either teaching the classes for the family members, holding an event with catered food or for decorations, or to maybe even jumpstart a similar program.