Understanding mental capacity
Understanding mental capacity

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Understanding mental capacity

3.2 Values, attitudes and actions

In Week 2 you began to consider what impact people’s values and attitudes can have on the actions people take either when making a decision, be that wise or unwise, and also the impact of any actions. Sometimes people’s attitudes towards different lifestyles and behaviour can affect their views on whether someone should be allowed to make a particular decision. You end this week by thinking about values, attitudes and actions, and their importance for anyone dealing with mental capacity.

What do we mean by ‘values’ and ‘attitudes’? Generally speaking a value is a belief about what is right and what is wrong. Some people also think of values in terms of what is important and what is unimportant. Mental capacity legislation is based on principles or, in other words, principles, standards or qualities that should be cared about and should contribute to people’s behaviour. Accepted values in society are usually supported by rules, mostly unwritten, about what is socially acceptable behaviour, both on a personal and an individual level.

Figure 5 Speech bubble of key words around our understanding of values, attitudes and actions

Activity 2 What are values?

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

The figure above shows some examples of values. Identify the values you think you uphold, as well as those that go against what you believe in. Can you also identify any values that clash or contradict?

Make some notes in the box below.

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Your personal values and attitudes can have an impact on your role in mental capacity. For example, they might affect your assumptions about what is best for a person who may lack mental capacity and your judgement about what is in their best interests, especially where they disagree. You may be trying to support someone who may lack capacity and whose values contradict yours. In such situations, it can be helpful to be aware of the values that you hold to be important.

Activity 3 What is important to you?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Answer the questionnaire on personal values provided below.

It is best to do this fairly quickly without thinking about the statements too much, but if you want to spend more time on it – perhaps because the concept of thinking about values still feels strange – then do so. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions – it is designed merely to get you to reflect on your own values and what you hold important.

As you click through the questionnaire you will see longer lists of questions that fill the screen.

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The questionnaire enabled you to consider values that included:

  • being the best and helping others to achieve
  • caring and having compassion for others
  • doing what is right and proper
  • the importance of being part of a group or a community.

Based on your results, consider:

  • how you might work alongside people whose values are different from your own
  • what might happen if you are supporting someone who may lack capacity and who has different values to your own
  • how your values might affect your assumptions about what is best for a person who may lack mental capacity and your judgement about what is in their best interests, especially where they disagree.

Values drive our actions

Thinking about how your values drive your actions will bring this week to a close. However, values are central to how matters relating to mental capacity are managed and you should keep them in mind as you continue with the rest of this course.

Some people think it is very important to help others, especially if they think they are in a vulnerable situation. Others think that getting involved is an intrusion on a person’s privacy and that people who help are merely do-gooders, interfering where it may not be wanted. You may well have thought about these matters when you were looking at the images and also found yourself agreeing with some but not all.

As you learned in this section, actions that are driven by values and attitudes are complex and need to be robustly examined in matters that concern mental capacity. You will explore these in more depth in Weeks 5 to 7.

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