This month James met with Christine Duncan (Chief Executive Officer) and Usman Ali (Policy and Development officer) from Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs.
Scottish Families are one of four commissioned agencies that are tasked by the Scottish Government to help deliver Scotland’s drug and alcohol strategy as well as develop policy and practice within the field. They have a clear focus on family members who are caring for a loved one with alcohol or drug problems. Family members often suffer from stress and a resultant lack of sleep, depression and anxiety. Often the first port of call for an individual is the local GP. Who regularly prescribe medicines, which deal with the symptoms but not the underlying causes. By focusing on providing support for the family member responsible for care Scottish Families aim to improve the health of the loved one affected by alcohol and drugs as well as the carer and the rest of the family. For every individual affected by substance misuse there another five or six family members also affected as a results. It is therefore vital that family members think about their own health, welfare and needs. Families need to recover too.
Scottish Families are attempting to reduce the health inequalities of families affected by alcohol and drug users in many ways. One of their significant successes is through family support groups. This gives families, partners and friends a chance to access a supportive and welcoming environment to share experiences. They also provide Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). The programme is designed to empower family members and make them feel entwined in the community and therefore improve their health and wellbeing.
Although Scottish Families have clear strategies to tackle inequalities they are faced by challenging issues. For example there is serious stigma attached to alcohol and drug misuse. The work that is being done in attempting to reduce the stigma is vital and this is done by normalising the situation and getting families to share their stories. In 2012 a members’ survey signified that 41% of respondents suggested that stigma played a role in preventing them seek help. Scottish Families have a critical understanding of the importance of reducing stigma and the importance of that in lowering health inequalities. Christine Duncan’s proposal to improve the health of families affected by alcohol and drugs is that Government, third sector, families and schools work together to create a whole-system approach. By doing this it means that it is not just the responsibility of one part of the system, everyone can share part of the burden.
From speaking to Christine and Usman it was clear that Scottish Families have a strong commitment and focus on reducing health inequalities for families affected by alcohol and drugs. It is very demanding task; as Christine said “Alcohol and drug abuse know no boundaries”, suggesting that this is a problem that can face anyone from any social background and their families. However through adopting a holistic approach it will be possible to improve significantly the support all those affected.
For more information please visit the Scottish Families affected by Alcohol and Drugs website.