More women encouraged to feel empowered and seek support for drug and alcohol use

On International Women’s Day, national charity WithYou urges women to come forward for free confidential advice and support with drugs and alcohol

Kelly, a previous client of WithYou in Darlington at STRIDE
Kelly, a previous client of WithYou in Darlington at STRIDE. Read Kelly’s story here

Women and men’s experience of using drugs and alcohol, in accessing support, and in engaging in treatment are often very different.

Men make up the majority of the drug and alcohol treatment population and services are often designed and centred on their needs. For many women, services with male-dominated service user populations can be daunting and intimidating places.

A proportionately higher number of men experiencing drug-related harm means women are being side-lined in policymaking and service development, despite their specific needs. Women often face additional stigma as the ‘primary caregivers’, are disproportionately disadvantaged in the criminal justice system, and face barriers entering services which can trigger memories of abuse and trauma.

WithYou’s research, A System Designed for Women?, shows how women who have already faced traumatic experiences and set-backs throughout their lives – such as abuse, domestic violence, cultural stigma and family breakdown – are held back from getting support by services and a system that often lacks the capacity and flexibility to cater for their needs.

We aim to continuously improve our own understanding of what interventions and models of support are most effective in engaging and providing treatment that fits women’s needs, and that women want to engage in.

Research by Agenda found that women who have experienced domestic abuse are also eight times more likely to develop a problem with drugs then women who haven’t.

Sarah Allen, WithYou Executive Director
Sarah Allen, WithYou Executive Director

Sarah Allen, WithYou Executive Director, said: ‘Accessing mainstream services can be difficult for certain groups and to help more people, we need to reach out to different communities, including women, tailoring the services we provide. 

‘Throughout WithYou services, we continue to take steps to improve women’s experience of accessing treatment. However, we know there is more we can do to improve our own services, ensuring they are inclusive and accessible to all women in need of support and treatment.

‘In order to help combat this, female voices must be acknowledged and centred across the health and care system.

‘It might seem overwhelming to others who find themselves in a similar situation to Kelly, but there is help, there is light and we are ready to support you – without judgement. 

We really want to encourage anyone who’s struggling with alcohol or drugs, to reach out for help. We are with you, every step of the way.’

WithYou understands that reaching out and accessing support for drug and alcohol use can be difficult with some women preferring to access materials digitally, often looking for self-help online.

WithYou’s Webchat available from offers free, expert advice on issues relating to drugs, alcohol and mental health, staffed by a specialised team of advisors trained to offer brief interventions, advice, signposting and emotional support.

DDN magazine is a free publication self-funded through advertising.

We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

This content was created by WithYou

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