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Peers as Dignity Workers Nora Jacobson September 22, 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "Peers as Dignity Workers Nora Jacobson September 22, 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 Peers as Dignity Workers Nora Jacobson September 22, 2012

2 Today's Agenda A model of dignity Peer support as dignity work The dignity audit

3 Dignity in the Literature Human Dignity –The inherent and inalienable value that belongs to every human being simply by virtue of being human Social Dignity –Dignity-of-Self –Dignity-in-Relation

4 Human Dignity –to be recognized for my real worth as a human being –its just something that should be there regardless of who you are or where you are, you know

5 Social Dignity/Dignity-of-self –dignity is the positive feelings that I have for myself Social Dignity/Dignity-in-relation –its just the way Im treated and spoken to –a sense of personal and kinda individual control over ones circumstances and um respct by others of your own, um, space and your, of who you are




9 Processes of Dignity Violation Rudeness Indifference Condescension Dismissal Disregard Contempt Dependence Intrusion Objectification Restriction Labeling Discrimination Revulsion Deprivation Assault Abjection


11 Courtesy He speaks to me, uh, with respect so that I feel he values my, my, uh, humanness…the way he talks, not talking down to me, but talking directly to me and, you know, and if I dont understand something then taking the time to explain it.

12 Recognition I say…What color eyes has the [homeless] person that you meet on the street every day? Oh, I dont know. I just know he wears a grey coat…When you see somebody on a regular basis and you dont ever look in their face…. So theyre usually, Oh, should I give money? I say, No. Give a hello. Because youre probably the only person who will have said hello, will have acknowledged that person, and just saying hello makes that person feel human, because its so much, so many of us walk right past them, as though they were a rock.

13 Acceptance I am not here to judge them. I remind them of that. I really try, uh, and strive towards not imposing my own values and judgment on people.

14 Empowerment Sometimes I do see with a client that it does seem like, uh, an act of dignity to say No, I dont, I dont want to take the meds. I dont want to do that. Im going to do this instead. And, uh, you know, thats hard for me to see that or understand that as dignity, uh, but thats, I think, what it is in a lot of cases…that was the most important choice for the individual to make and thats the choice that the individual felt best about and, you know, at the end of the day whether he is receiving treatment [or not] he still is an autonomous individual who has to live with his choices.

15 Independence [If youve got] a key to a door, which is your home, a place to live, thats your own, all that is dignity…Im not going to tell you anythingyou are the queen of your castle. You know what I mean? You can do anything you want. I really see income and employment as going a long way in restoring dignity. That it's something a person does for themselves and they feel they've done it for themselves, 'cause in fact they have, they gotten up and gotten there.

16 Contribution Giving something back Making a difference

17 Discipline Doing chores When I tell someone I'm going to do something, I do it. Staying straight

18 Accomplishment Im thinking about a client right now who, uh, who recently lost his housing and, uh, hes had a number of other struggles in his life around mental health issues and so forth. Things have really been tough for him lately and, you know, in spite of that, you know, I think what keeps him going is that he sees his past successes, he sees his accomplishments as an individual, twenty years ago and thirty years ago and he understands that hes not a terrible person because he hasnt been able to do A, B, or C and that he does have individual strengths…so all of those things make his sense of himself as an individual more intact and I think thereby give him a greater sense of dignity.

19 Enrichment What I personally do and what I did when I was in the system is I kept my, um. I love literature. I love, um, like real literature--I dont mean current selling things. I have found that was a real incredibly helpful tool because it was something that I knew on my own would help me preserve a certain dignity. Without that, I became afraid I would then be like the other people and get squashed down even more. So literature for me is like about dignity.

20 Authenticity You have first to be yourself, what you believe yourself, and you have to have, uh, strong will. You have to be really focused more in yourself than think about other people around you.

21 Love It lets them know theyre worthy. It lets them know they have value, and it lets them be respected in the end even if maybe they went through their whole life not feeling worthwhile, not feeling any sort of value…by being there, by being able to give people what they need…also just honoring who they might have been.

22 Perseverance One thing that I, that I, that keeps me going in this particular area of business is the fact that I, I meet somebody at nine oclock in the morning. We work very, very hard to get certain things in place, be it a shelter bed, be it a meal, uh, be it access to finances or access to a doctor or any of that…and then at five oclock I shut my door and I say, Sorry…Ive done everything now. I do have to close the door and go home. And the fact that that person comes back tomorrow morning and has faith and has the internal drive to be able to come back and start all over again, not once or twice but over a really long period of time…. Most of us dont have the drive to do that every single day. Get up in the morning and know that youre going to go through the same steps and perhaps at the end of day either end up even worse than you were or at the same place.

23 Control I know some people, you know, maybe they have a [disability support] issue and so they get on the phone and theyre yelling and screaming. But that never got me anywhere. You try and be, uh, uh. Theres always a million ways to say the same thing, eh? You know, you can yell or you can be too kind or quiet about it or theres in between, you know? [If] I know I have to call them cause I need something or something, Im kind of asking them for something so I better be nice about it, or if they made a mistake maybe, theres no point in getting mad at them. You might stall them in terms of correcting the mistake if theyre mad at me. So you try to be as nice as you can.

24 Transcendence I cannot really control the actions of other people and sometimes you get a bad reaction from other people and people may have heard it and you dont want to feel slighted but thats, you know, and you cant sit there and focus on it…kind of taking a step back and realizing that hey, this is not really my problem.

25 Preparation My approach has sort of changed in that Ive sort of accepted the fact that…there may be medical doctors out there, family doctors in Toronto that would suit my needs, but as of now I havent found one…So that Ill just use him as my once-a-year appointment. I need to go in for some check-ups related to my condition and Ill just, Ill just do that. And not expect much from him. And I think thats going to probably help me with dignity and how I feel about myself, because if I dont expect much from him…then maybe if I don t expect much of him then I wont be, like I wont be so upset after the appointment.

26 Avoidance Its like a clear glass bell jar around me, but not having a door on the outside and Im on the inside because, uh, for meIm not as, uh, as easily affected as I once wasbut that was a problem for me, where like some people could just like open the door, dump their shit in and close it and Id be like Oh, whats all this crap? and Id feel overwhelmed by whatever it was…. [But now] Ive got the door on the inside so I can keep the door shut. But I mean its cracked, it happens, and for me dignity is an ongoing battle to, to, to not lose it, to keep it.

27 Concealment I dont know if Im supposed to say this. This is the dignity: Ive been closeted. Ive been using drugs since I was fifteen years old. Ive been closeted cause I raised a son by myself and everything and I had so much to lose. I just could not afford that, you know? So, uh, thats where, uh, my dignity came. I would do the church thing and hallelujah on Sunday and then call the crack dealer.

28 Advocacy I would say advocating on behalf of clients, uh, who, uh, may not be well served by their community service provider or who may be facing discrimination of one kind or another…trying to remove obstacles and barriers, uh, to help them live a more full and dignified life.

29 Presence I may not do anything, but the fact that I am there makes a very big difference…. If I am with my client, my client will feel and be treated differently. If I am not, my client will be treated deliberately poorly.

30 Support I think its pretty hard for someone to conduct themselves with dignity if they dont get the resources [like food, wealth, opportunities, equity] to do it. Its basics [that] give people dignity.

31 Leveling We call each other on a first name basis and try to, um, minimize the differentials…we try to make sure that as much as we can be seen on the same level in terms of, you know, were all people. We try to be real and genuine in our work and not create this huge difference between [the clients] and us.

32 Resistance Saying no. Saying no more. Standing up for oneself

33 Dignity Work For self/for others By individuals/by collectives Transitive Affirmative/defensive

34 Dignity work Creating dignity Maintaining dignity Protecting dignity Reclaiming dignity

35 Peer support as dignity work Connecting to resources & info gathering = advocacy & reducing deprivation Skill building/mentoring/goal setting & socialization/self esteem building = moving toward positions of confidences and away from positions of vulnerability Experiential sharing & relationship building & group facilitation & community building = build solidarity & reduce asymmetry Invisible work = collective dignity work Affirmative and defensive dignity work Dignity work at the individual, organizational, and societal levels


37 The dignity audit Using dignity as a lens to assess policy and practice Examine: structure (position, relationship, setting, and social order); process (processes of violation and promotion); outcomes (objects and consequences) Identify: types of intervention (affirmative/defensive); points of intervention (person, organization, system, society); logic of intervention; barriers to change

38 Acknowledgments My thanks to all of the interview participants and to my research assistants, Vanessa Oliver and Andrew Koch. This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Mary Beck Professional Development Fund at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.


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