Please don’t kill me with kindness! The risk of being over-supported by paid services

Updated: Nov 11

An image of a tree in a field with the mind-life logo

It's easy to assume that when it comes to psychosocial recovery, more support is going to lead to better outcomes. This is an easy pitfall to slip into when you have struggled to get support for a long time and finally receive a package through the NDIS.

When we are struggling with psychosocial disability it can feel like such a complex issue. Psychosocial disability is not as tangible as others. We can’t easily measure it, and sometimes it's not easy to pinpoint exactly what causes it and what will help. For many, this leads to an assumption that we’re going to need “all the help we can get”.

At Mind-Life we believe that psychosocial disability is a symptom of chronically unmet needs and lost opportunities. We do not see it as a deficit within the person, rather it’s the systems of support and wellbeing in their life.

“Psychosocial disability is not a symptom of mental illness; it is a negative side effect of lost opportunities”

“Psychosocial disability is not a symptom of mental illness but a symptom of unmet need.”

What happens when a person who has deficits within their systems of support engages more of the same kind of support in the hope that things will get better?

Sometimes the person experiences atrophy in their mind-life skills which leads to a worsening of their “symptoms”. Often the person and their supporters think that this deterioration is due to the person’s disability getting worse. So, what do they do? Load up with more services! And so, the cycle continues.

In this situation the person doesn’t need more services, they need something completely different. When a person seems to be getting worse (or no better) no matter how much support they have, it can feel scary. This can trigger values and beliefs within themselves and their supporters. These beliefs often come from a caring value base, but are actually false:

  • Mental illness is a degenerative condition and it's inevitable that the person will need more supports as time goes on.

  • This person is “sicker” that those other people who recover. The best we can hope for is Maintenance.

  • My role (supporter) is to give this person quality of life as best I can, keep them safe and protected from stress.

  • If the person pushes themself too hard, they might get unwell and relapse.

  • Relapse is always a bad thing

These beliefs are pitfalls, and they only get perpetuated when we take on more and more, inappropriate support.

A great analogy for what happens in this case is the muscles in a limb that has been in a cast for a very long time. The muscles are our mind-life muscles; our self-righting; self-determination; human rights; confidence; self-esteem; belief etc. When we get wrapped up in lots of services because they assume we are broken, the services wrapping around us act as a cast.