DSS Champion Blessing Dada
08 Sep, 2023
Blessing Dada has been through a lot - and not only has she come out the other side; she is now advocating for others.
Black Irish and born in Dublin to immigrant parents in a family of six, Blessing says her activism has been forged in her own experiences, which in recent years has included mental health issues and homelessness. As one of the champions of the Decision Support Service (DSS), she believes granting people more autonomy is a principle grounded in basic human rights.
"Disability is such a wide spectrum," Blessing says. "I think especially with the pandemic it has shone a light on how fragile life was and how any of us could be disabled at any time.
"It should have given us an opportunity to reflect on society and how much support we need to put in place for inclusion for all people in Ireland."
As for her own work, she says "the number one thing is there was not a lot of awareness of mental health advocacy in ethnic minority communities.
"I share my lived experiences and am advocating for people to open up, and the importance of community."
Blessing comments that we all "live very multi-faceted lives" - and she should know. In a powerful first-person piece published in recent years by Mental Health Ireland, Blessing wrote about a "chaotic year", which involved going through homelessness during a pandemic, while being a student, while sick, and while financially unstable.
"I am very passionate about it," she says now of her advocacy work, which involves a number of different organisations such as Cooking for Freedom Ireland and working with those in Direct Provision. Her work also involves connecting with people through social media platforms and she says she feels "very privileged that people would come to me for help". She is also open about her own struggles - living alone, with an illness, and trying to support herself. It all informs her belief that the DSS can be a game changer for some people who might otherwise feel completely marginalised when it comes to decisions about their care and welfare.
"I think how it would help people. It would meet them where they are at," she says.
Education is key, she says - not just for children, but for adults too.
"So, the DSS could be an amazing resource, giving that the service is helping parents in making decisions from an appropriate angle," she explains.
"I always say to people, when I am talking about disability justice, that it is for everyone. Any of us could be impacted by disability at any time in our lives, so it is important to make resources as available as possible. People need to change their minds when they think of disability."
To learn a little bit more about Blessing, please watch a short video at this link.