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We know from experience that people living with mental illness and disability can learn new skills, increase their abilities and independence, using a strengths-based, person-centred and recovery-oriented approach. Over time, people are able to draw on past experiences and increase their capacity to manage their health, wellness and life in general. Over the years, we have seen people with varying abilities, live happy and fulfilling lives with increased independence and natural connections to community resources that are available to everyone living within the community.
A strengths-based approach means that we see the person, not their disability, illness or condition. Sometimes, people come to Sunnyside with a disability or illness identity. This means that they relate to the world through their disability. People with an illness identity might describe themselves as ‘disabled’ or ‘schizophrenic’ before they identify themselves as a person, a son, daughter, sister, brother, mother, father, or member of a team. At Sunnyside, we seek to identify and connect with people through their valued roles rather than through their disability, illness, diagnosis or condition. We understand the impact disability and illness can have and we do not seek to minimise peoples' experiences. In fact, we'll do our best to use your language when we talk about your disability and/or experiences.
We understand that people are doing the best they can with the skills they have and that sometimes it can be difficult to draw upon personal strengths and resources. Often, over time, our role is to help people discover or rediscover their strengths, skills, and capabilities and to use these skills to learn and grow so they can live a happy and fulfilling life.
A person-centred approach places the person in the centre of their life. The person is seen as the captain of their own ship and the expert in their own life, particularly in identifying their own needs and aspirations and the types of support required to help meet those needs. At Sunnyside, we seek to understand, listen, and focus on what a person tells us is important to them now, and in the future. We work together and alongside individuals and with the people they decide they want to be included in their life. We respect the decisions people make about their own lives and we do not judge.
A recovery-oriented approach works to support and empower people to make their own choices about how they want to live their life. Recovery-orientated practice seeks to ensure there is a balance between supporting a person to take positive risks and making the most of new opportunities with duty of care. At Sunnyside, we understand that recovery in the sense of mental illness does not always mean a cure or a life without symptoms. We also know the importance of hope and optimism and believe in each and every person’s ability to live a meaningful, happy and self-directed life, with as much choice, control, and independence as possible.
Many people live with the overwhelming and ongoing effects of past and present trauma. Trauma Informed Practice recognises the prevalence of trauma and creates an understanding and responsiveness to the impact trauma has on the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of individuals and communities.
Keeping the possibility of trauma on our radar means keeping the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of people who may be trauma survivors in mind. It also means being respectful, acknowledging, and understanding a person’s story and further, changing the mindset from ‘what is wrong with you’ to ‘what may have happened to you’ when supporting a person.
Having a basic understanding of how stress can affect any of us can certainly help the support relationship. Knowing this will make us less likely to fuel other people’s levels of distress. This means paying attention to the way we engage, support, and interact with people and being curious around what helpful support looks like for each person, individually.
It is important to understand that positive experiences in our support relationships can help us heal and negative experiences can sometimes make our emotional and psychological issues worse.
Trauma informed practice. creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment in their lives and sometimes involves learning more helpful, self serving and resourceful strategies to cope with the everyday realities of life.