Making Forward a place for everyone

Photo by James A. Molnar on Unsplash

Forward’s Inclusion Co-Ordinator Darren on recovery, support for LGBT+ people and the importance of feeling included.

I first came to Forward for help with my substance use on my 40th birthday, back in November 2018. Not only was I struggling with my alcohol and drug use, but also, I still had not come to terms with my sexuality as a gay man. 

Forward were faultless with their overall support for my substance use, but I still struggled to find specialist support for dealing with my sexuality and how my feelings about my identity related to my substance use. This was pre-covid, there wasn’t much online, and it seemed like there was only help to be found in the big towns and cities. 

I volunteered for Forward, helping with online meetings during lockdowns and then was lucky enough to gain employment on a traineeship, then later as a Drug and Alcohol Practitioner. As soon as I started, I knew I wanted to do something with the LGBTQ+ community in mind. I set up an LGBTQ+ meeting, and soon after I spoke at our staff conference about why I did so. I was inundated with questions from staff about how best they could support their LGBTQ+ clients, about terminology, and identities. 

It was clear that this was an area that needed some dedicated work. So in November 2022, I was offered the role of Inclusion Co-ordinator, working specifically with the LGBTQ+ community. Part of this role was to help staff understand the support needs of the community, as well as explore more about chemsex related harms, which are presenting into service more and more often.

I designed an LGBTQ+ staff training session, which covers everything from: what LGBTQ+ means; addiction rates within the community; the history of LGBTQ+ people; chemsex; pronouns and more. I know everyone working for Forward has our client’s needs at the forefront of their work. With this basic training, staff are better equipped to understand and support our clients. 

Staff have been really engaged and keen to learn. These sessions have given a safe space for staff to ask questions they may feel embarrassed to ask ordinarily. 

The prevalence of addiction among gay and bisexual men is three times higher than for heterosexual men. For lesbian and bisexual women, it is four times higher. Moreover, for trans people, the rates are even higher. LGBTQ+ people are four times as likely to have suicidal ideation and to act on those thoughts. One in seven LGBTQ+ people don’t access healthcare settings due to fear of stigma and discrimination, which is why our support is so needed. 

With stigma still surrounding substance use issues, as well as the stigma around being LGBTQ+, our clients need added support. Self-acceptance is key for anyone navigating substance use issues, even more so for those within the LGBTQ+ community. I have had personal experience, and I see it all too often with my clients, of poor service from healthcare providers. Generally, this is around a lack of knowledge or understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.  

My role is not only to support staff but to help clients – and potential clients – understand that Forward is a place for them, and we are open to anyone and everyone. By having staff undertake this introductory training, it gives them the confidence to deal with all clients with respect and understanding. 

This blog was originally published by The Forward Trust. You can read the original post here.

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This content was created by The Forward Trust

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