As part of my undergraduate degree, I chose to dive into the world of mental health support through the lens of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). In this quest, I interviewed the inspiring team at First Person Project CIC, seeking to understand how ABCD principles could be implemented to foster mental well-being.
Navigating the complex landscape of mental health, I found myself drawn to the transformative potential of ABCD. Little did I anticipate the profound insights that would emerge from my conversations with the First Person Project team, who live and breathe these principles in their work.
The interviews provided a wealth of data, revealing three core themes: Power Dynamics, Strengths-Focus, and Individualized Service. These themes encapsulated the essence of how ABCD principles shape the provision of mental health support.
Power Dynamics Theme:
Power, a subtle force in mental health support, emerged as a central theme. The interviews illuminated the intricate dance between service providers and citizens, perpetuating a cycle of dependency. However, within ABCD, the emphasis shifted to recognizing the innate power within individuals and communities, fostering self-reliance and a departure from the traditional, dependency-laden approach.
"Giving the power back to the people and allowing them to show up as themselves, and have their voices heard," became a rallying cry for a citizen-centred approach.
The lexicon of positivity—strengths, assets, gifts—echoed throughout my interviews. The strengths-focus inherent in ABCD surfaced as a guiding principle, urging service providers to nurture the strengths of individuals and communities. However, it became apparent that challenging the prevailing deficit-focused paradigm demanded a confrontation with internalized dependency and conditions of worth.
The team at First Person Project passionately conveyed how embracing strengths can forge connections, building a community where individuals unearth the solutions they need.
Individualized Service Theme:
Individuality took centre stage as a cornerstone of effective mental health support. In the realm of ABCD, acknowledging the uniqueness of each person became paramount. Tailoring services to the individual, though challenging, emerged as a potent antidote to the one-size-fits-all mentality. This personalized approach, while hindering traditional funding models, created a holistic, empowering service that adapts to the diverse needs of each individual.
Amidst the revelations, a surprising barrier surfaced—understanding. The team at First Person Project shared their struggles in conveying the nuances of ABCD to external stakeholders. A call for clearer education and communication echoed through their experiences, shedding light on a gap in the existing literature—a gap urging further exploration into the challenges hindering the adoption of ABCD.
In conclusion, my exploration into ABCD through the lens of First Person Project unveiled a paradigm shift in mental health support. By placing citizens at the forefront, empowering them to recognize their innate strength, and embracing individuality, ABCD emerges not just as a model but as a catalyst for transformative change. As we break the chains of dependency, we pave the way for a mental health landscape that is not just supportive but liberating.
This journey, while revealing, also points to an uncharted territory—understanding. The challenge lies not just in the implementation
of ABCD but in articulating its essence to a broader audience. As I conclude this exploration, it is evident that the next frontier beckons—an in-depth examination of what makes ABCD difficult to understand and how we can bridge that gap.
"As we embrace the strengths within ourselves and our communities, we untangle the knots of dependency, creating a masterpiece of mental well-being where every brushstroke tells a story of empowerment and connection." - Maya Angelou