Responsibility towards others


ABOVE: In a hospital environment, it is sometimes hard to remember the Golden Rule  PHOTO BY WARREN HEGGARTY

By Warren Heggarty

Sometimes we are so preoccupied with our own difficulties that we forget the needs of the very people who care for us. 

One day I paid my usual visit to my father who was in the aged care psychiatry unit of a public hospital. Like many old people with kidney failure, constant infections and an attack of sepsis had caused dementia that made him somewhat unpleasant company! It could not be helped. On my way out, another patient called me over. ‘Your father can’t talk to you like that!’ he insisted. 

The other patient could only see what was before him, but I had been on the other side of the fence, too. When mentally unwell there had been many times I had been verbally abusive to people. My parents had had to put up with my tantrums, drunkenness and unpredictable behaviour for years. 

I think we all need to realise that the way we behave when unwell affects the people around us- especially those in a carer’s role. This realisation becomes a part of recovery. If we are able to do something about it, then I think we should take that responsibility and try while we can. 

Our need for safety and security

In March 2018 Panorama we discussed Maslow’s pyramid which is a way of putting human needs into priority order. (More than being medicated: The Heirarchy of Need, #67 page 28). According to Maslow, feeling safe is one of the basic necessities of life. Safety, along with our physical needs, provides the foundation upon which we can build a sense of belonging, our self esteem, and being the best we can be. (Maslow )

“This goes beyond clothing and shelter to include financial security, health and mental well-being, protection from abuse and harm and having our rights respected.” (Everett, 2018)

Why is responsibility valued

One of the things that gives us this sense of safety is the people around us. Having reliable, responsible people around us gives us a sense of confidence and security. This is one of the reasons why in our society, responsibility is so positively and highly valued. It gives us the stability we need to achieve our higher goals. (Seseidos, 2017) If you were often in contact with a person who was very unpredictable or who was prone to temper flare-ups or even violence, you would be living on edge and that would make it difficult for you to achieve the important things higher up on Maslow’s pyramid. If we live by the maxim to “do unto others as we would have others do unto us”, then we all have a basic responsibility to do what we can to ensure that we do not reduce the sense of safety of our carers, family and people around us. 

This can be challenging when we are dealing with mental health issues, and if we are depressed there is the danger we might use it as another excuse to think poorly of ourselves. Taking the challenge of seeing past our immediate feelings, will make it easier for us to think well of ourselves. 


Everett, G. (2018, March ). More than being medicated: The Hierarchy of Need. Panorama, 28.

Maslow . (n.d.). Retrieved from Simply psychology:

Seseidos, P. (2017, November 8). Responsibility: Being a responsible person makes you feel good. Retrieved from Cognifit:

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