Why We Are With You
Designing a name and brand that makes it easier for anyone to ask for help.
In February, we are changing our name and brand from Addaction to We Are With You (or With You for short). This is a big moment for us and the culmination of 18 months of research, listening, conversation and debate with the people who use or might use our services, our staff and volunteers.
I’m very proud that we’re taking this step together and I wanted to share the work and thinking behind it.
Mollie Craven founded our charity over 50 years ago with an appeal to families to support each other and work together to overcome problems with drugs, alcohol and mental health. Our work grew from this foundation of mutual aid, peer support and collaboration — families helping families to make it ok to ask for help and find support to get better. We’ve changed our name a few times since these early days, but our ethos and heart as an organisation has remained the same.
As a society, we’ve learnt a lot more in this time about what helps people overcome addiction and improve their mental health, and the complex mix of emotional, social and physiological circumstances that impact on people. Above all else, what makes a difference is the relationships and human connections we make and the way these help us find love, purpose and meaning in our lives.
“My Addaction worker has helped me through a lot to become the person who I am today.”
We wanted to find a new name that reflects the history and ethos of our charity, and the way we work with people as equal partners in their recovery. At a time when millions of people are experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol and mental health and often going without help, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to take the first step in getting support.
Coproducing change with the people we work with
Over the past 18 months, we’ve spent time with and listened to hundreds of people who use our services as well as people not in treatment to inform our research, shape decisions and co-design ideas for change. We’ve also led in-depth research with people currently experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol and mental health, as well as the wider public. We’ve learnt so much about how people experience getting help, the barriers that remain stubbornly in the way, and the hope and possibility that finding the right support can bring.
From the start, we agreed the principle — with the Trustee board, leadership team and all of our staff — that we would base our decisions on the views of people who experience issues with drugs, alcohol and mental health, and what would make the biggest difference to them. We’ve also done a lot of testing and engagement work ourselves, lowering project costs and helping to shift our culture more widely to reflect the change in our name and identity.
The words we use to talk about these issues have got to change. Language has a profound effect on the way we interact with each other. Charities everywhere are grappling with how to change the dynamic conveyed by ‘beneficiary’ or ‘service user’ and ‘keyworker’ and the hierarchy this implies. We know that what makes a difference is standing alongside people and working together, drawing on diverse perspectives and shared lived experience to overcome challenges together.
Through research, we also heard loud and clear how the language around addiction can in itself be a huge barrier to people seeking support.
“I want to feel welcomed, not judged.”
Any of us can experience difficult relationships with alcohol and drugs at times in our lives, and poor mental health and trauma can be a trigger or an underlying issue turning habits into something more serious. Yet we still see labels like ‘addict’ or ‘junkie’. These stigmatise and lock people into talking about the problem or drug, not focusing on the person and their potential for change. As We Are With You, we will use everyday language and focus on the help we offer, not the problem.
“I like the language — it’s neutral. If you need us we’re here rather than telling people what to do.”
Being accessible for everyone
Walking through the door of any service can be a daunting experience. Our staff and volunteers do all they can to make our spaces feel welcoming, non-judgemental and supportive, but it’s hard to overcome the shame people often feel about needing help in the first place. Over the past few years, we’ve focused on improving how people find, engage in and experience starting treatment, to build on people’s motivation to change and focus on relationships, not problems. The name ‘Addaction’ didn’t do enough to reflect this.
“It’s the hardest thing I will do and there are just a few things that put me off… help me get over the door and into services.”
People told us that they would be three times more likely to choose us for help if we changed our name. Research showed that our new name was more inclusive and reassuring, and appealed to both young people and adults across all ages and backgrounds. We also tested with people wanting some advice or to start making small changes, as well as people looking for bigger lifestyle changes or structured treatment. We’ve backed this up with friendly, hand-drawn illustrations to universalise the support we offer, with movement to show the progress people make with our help.
With this rebrand we’ll also launch a new website to help us reach more people, provide anonymous web-chat support and self-service advice and content; the website will be live in late February at wearewithyou.org.uk.
Working with others to make a change
In setting out our new strategy and direction, we shared our hope to be part of a bigger, national conversation about the way public services and the welfare state need to change to fit with modern lives; to shift from being reactive and caught up with poor systems and technology, towards restoring people’s confidence, connections and strengths to move forward on their own terms.
Changing our name is a big step, but I hope it underlines our commitment to a different way of working and making sure that good help is easier to reach for everyone. I’m excited about what we will achieve together as We Are With You, and can’t wait to see our new brand in action.
Our huge thanks to everyone who has taken part in research, workshops, testing and feedback sessions to help us get here.