17th October 2023
Our Housing and Communities Connector Robert Mullen is based in Toryglen, Glasgow. His work focuses on promoting inclusion in communities.
Robert has shared his thoughts on the power of inclusion, how it was key to his recovery from drug addiction, and how he uses his experiences to help others.
Robert said: “I haven’t always been included in things. When I was growing up I had problems with my behaviour, and I played up a lot. People would hold certain prejudices about who I was. It felt like I was excluded from everywhere.
“Parents would stop the other kids from being around me. Teachers would just send me out of the classroom. No one asked me what I was going through or why I did the things I did.
“Later on I struggled a lot with drug addiction, and spent time in prison. And even then, some prisons wouldn’t accept me – they didn’t want to listen, I’d just be moved on to the next place.
“When you’re not included, it’s easy to lose hope and stop caring.
“My recovery started with the help of someone who wanted to include me. An ex-prison officer, who became an addiction officer, introduced me to an ‘Addiction Alternatives’ community programme.
“I’d often been told not to bother coming back to places. But here, they’d tell me: “If you don’t give up on yourself, we won’t give up on you.”
“This inclusion is what led to my recovery. I haven’t taken drugs since, and I’ve been clean for nine years.
“Since then, my main focus has been to use my past to help others.”
“I became a support worker in that same recovery programme. I’d always try to see past people’s addictions and listen to what they had to say without judgement. When anger was directed at me, I knew it was coming from frustration with their situation, I’d never take it personally.
“As a Housing and Communities Connector for Sanctuary, I recently worked with a resident who hadn’t left their house for two and a half years. They felt extremely isolated during lockdown and their mental health had spiralled. They stopped taking her medication and contacting her doctor.
“We took small steps to get through this together. First just standing by the back door, and eventually taking a walk around the neighbourhood. They now volunteer with a local charity, and is doing significantly better.
“I’ve learned that no matter what the situation is, giving someone a little bit of hope can make miracles happen. This is the power of inclusion.”