This slogan is appropriate for all caring organisations, although in this case I have taken it from a campaign to save hedgehogs. This Christmas, staff at Kaleidoscope have decided to support Liz Sivewright, who is a nurse in our Gwent team, but also a Hedgehog rescuer. Liz volunteers at the Hedgehog Helpline (HH), whose aim is Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release orphaned and injured hedgehogs. HH are a voluntary hedgehog rescue organisation operating in South-East Wales, which depends on the goodwill of volunteers and local vets together with donations from the public. In order to help Liz in her work with the hedgehogs, Kaleidoscope staff are being encouraged to bring a can of cat food to the Kaleidoscope Awards Event on December 10th. Why cat food? Because that is what little injured hedgehogs like to eat when they are staying at Liz’s house.
In our own services we often rescue people, an unpopular word in many ways but often apt. Alcohol and drug use can cause people harm and for those it does, there is a need to provide rescue services.
The rescue can involve relatively minimal interventions, in the case of a hedgehog it may be providing food for a limited time in ones garden. A person experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol may actually simply need a brief intervention where they understand what triggers behaviour that puts them at risk and then learn simple techniques to avoid that. Sometimes of course, rescuing is more dramatic and may need hospitalisation in the same way that a hedgehog that is severely undernourished or had an accident will need a vet and a place to stay. A number of people seeking our help suffer from domestic violence; they are being bullied due to their mental health, while others are suffering from post traumatic stress. They either need our help or other carers who have expertise relevant to their issues.
Rescuing is important but if you do not address the issues that may be dangerous, you offer no long term solution. So yes if someone has an overdose, Naloxone is critical and it is an act of a rescuer. In itself it is a good action but it is not designed to help with the causes that lead many people to take risks with their lives that may have led them to overdose. So rescuers often have to help people rehabilitate. In the case of a hedgehog it may be a change of environment, for people it may be the environment, but often it is helping people to address the emotional and physical issues they face.
The process of rehabilitation takes many different forms and sadly there is not one simple approach that works. What is critical is that we do not make people reliant on our treatment services. Our role may be to rescue and to rehabilitate but ultimately it is to release them to do what they will with their lives; I think this is the hardest part of treatment. A hedgehog is not a pet, it should not be held captive and should have its freedom. In providing treatment services we also have to let go of people to make their own decisions. It may be that they do become drug or alcohol free, they may work and make a fantastic contribution to their communities or they may simply learn how to live better with their drug and alcohol use and live with their demons. Freedom is about self determination and the creation of one’s own networks where one is not reliant on professionally made communities.