What is normal?

People whose lives combine severe and multiple disadvantages have often grown up in worlds where alcohol or drug use, violence or offending are normal. Chaotic behaviours can be a coping mechanism to trauma and isolation. But often, they also reflect the environment in which people live.   To some extent, our actions are guided by …

Toby Lowe: Complexity, Autonomy & Trust

In this guest blog, Toby Lowe, Senior Research Associate at Newcastle University Business School talks about overcoming missed opportunities for vulnerable people, and about how to create lasting, sustainable change that helps them to thrive. “The stories of people who have taken part in Hard Edges are fascinating, inspiring and incredibly frustrating. For me, the …

A system of missed opportunities

“I never used to trust the professionals. I hated them, They took my kids away. Every professional in my life was bad in my eyes. But now the roles have reversed. They’ve helped me sustain the life that I’m living now.” From the minute she was born until she ended up in prison, Natasha fell …

Building a “new me”

At the root of most of the stories shared on this site, there is a deep struggle with self-esteem. As highlighted in a previous post, this often comes from experiencing rejection during childhood. Karen, Martin, Tex, Natasha, Zeb… all reflected on how childhood experiences have led them to build a new identity for themselves. In …

Katie Brooksbank: how it feels to listen

In this guest blog, Katie Brooksbank, Pathways Worker at Together for Mental Wellbeing talks us through her experiences as a listener attending one of our Hard Edges: Lives Behind the Numbers Workshop, and why she thinks stories are some of the most powerful tools we have when redesigning public services.     “We are all aware …

The system punishes you for doing well

Turning your life around is a phrase we often hear when we talk about offending, addiction or homelessness. But what does it really mean? And does it really only depend on people hitting a lightbulb moment? What the people we have met have made clear through their stories is that recovery is a journey. What …

Coping with love, coping with rejection

Last week, we shared Colin’s story and reflected on the impact of stigma. Friends and family, services and society can at times be quick to judge someone who lives a “chaotic life.” However, chaos is rarely a lifestyle choice. Really often, it is a coping mechanism. After hearing the stories of others in similar situations, …

What does it mean to tell your story?

At our last workshop we invited commissioners and service providers to listen to stories of 12 people experiencing severe and multiple disadvantage. At the event, we asked some of the Hard Edges Lives Behind the Numbers participants what it  means to them to be able to tell their life stories. Here’s what they had to say.

Society’s expectations of you shape you

Over the next 12 weeks, the participants of Hard Edges: Lives Behind the Numbers will share with you their life journeys. This is the first in a series of blogs that follows each story. Today, we examine the role of stigma in the lives of people who are experiencing multiple disadvantage, and how the expectations your family, your friends, …