New Scottish campaign gives voice to people bereaved by substance use

A new Scottish anti-stigma campaign has been launched by the University of Stirling, SHAAP, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs and the Salvation Army. See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland ( shares video letters to loved ones who have died, as well as resources for people with substance issues, their families and friends, and reporting guidelines for the media.

Families are sharing their personal pain to save lives

The aim is to ‘shatter myths’ around drug and alcohol use, say the organisers, with the campaign website also asking visitors to sign a pledge committing to being ‘respectful and compassionate’, use non-judgemental language, and ‘reach out to those they know have been affected’ to help reduce isolation and stigma. The guidelines for reporters and editors include only using images of alcohol and drugs where appropriate, and avoiding use of stigmatising language or images of people in vulnerable conditions.

‘These are stories that will challenge stereotypes and hopefully provoke people to think differently,’ said co-director of the University of Stirling’s Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research, Tessa Parkes. ‘Problems with drugs and alcohol affect many people in Scotland, no matter what their background, job, family situation, or income is. See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland aims to dispel the images that persist of someone in a gutter surrounded by syringes or empty bottles. Everyone knows someone affected.’ 

‘Each year there are new statistics on the number of people who have died through alcohol or drugs,’ added CEO of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Justina Murray. ‘Over the past ten years, Scotland has lost over 20,000 people through alcohol and drugs – a really shocking toll of grief and heartache. This campaign shines a powerful light on families’ personal pain and loss, but also their enduring love and hope for a better future. This campaign will help us change Scotland’s story around alcohol and drugs, to reduce harm and save lives.’

Meanwhile, Elena Whitham has replaced Angela Constance as Scotland’s minister for drug and alcohol policy, following Constance’s appointment as justice minister. It was crucial that the focus of the national mission to reduce drug-related deaths was maintained under the new minister, said SDF CEO Dave Liddell, particularly the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) standards. ‘We still have a long way to go to deliver these and there remain other significant challenges, particularly with regard to the workforce in terms of recruitment, retention and staff burn out.’

The new, UK-wide Anti-Stigma Network is also launching to help amplify the work already being done by a wide range of organisations, with a steering group that includes Adfam, Build on Belief, DDN and Phoenix Futures. See the May issue of DDN for details.


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