MSPs support campaign to end stigma of addiction
published on 21 Jun 2023
A Salvation Army-backed campaign aimed at reducing the stigma around deaths due to alcohol and drugs has been given the support of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.
See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland was launched by the University of Stirling, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems and The Salvation Army.
They hope using stories and images of people who have been affected will shatter myths surrounding drug and alcohol – and encourage the public to show compassion for those experiencing problems with substance use and the people left behind when a loved one dies.
At a reception in Holyrood, MSPs Miles Briggs and Monica Lennon shared their experiences of losing their fathers to alcohol addiction. Their letters are included with 14 others who have written to their loved ones on the campaign’s website.
In her letter, Monica, who as a teenager attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with her father in Glasgow, writes: “A whole lot of life happens when you are waiting for rock bottom. Part of me always believed that you would fall so hard that recovery would follow. There were times it was too difficult to be around.”
‘Everyone knows someone’ is the message behind the campaign. As well as hard-hitting stories and videos from family members and friends of people who have died, the website (https://www.seebeyondscotland.com) includes resources and advice for those harmed by substance use, whether for themselves or a family member or friend.
Lee Ball, Director of Addictions at The Salvation Army, which helped fund the campaign, said: “Blame and shame only compound the hurt and harm of substance use. The Salvation Army supports thousands of people through our addiction and harm reduction work, and we understand that people often use drugs and alcohol as a coping strategy to escape unbearable pain and trauma. We welcome this campaign as it brings a voice to those who seldom get to talk about how substance use has affected them and brings a much-needed focus to the fact that this issue touches us all. It is also a powerful reminder that to save lives, you must also address the root cause of the substance use, and that means investing in addiction and mental health support services.”
MSP, Miles Briggs said of supporting the campaign: “The important message with See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland is that there is still stigma attached to alcohol and drug use, from how people talk about it to the judgements they bring to it.
“Each of these letters is a rallying cry to make a change. Everyone knows someone, and we can all help steer each other towards more of an understanding of substance use and its effects on people’s lives.”
The initiative comes after three consecutive years of rising numbers of deaths from drugs, and two for deaths from alcohol, across the UK, with Scotland showing the highest rates. The latest figures for suspected drug deaths in Scotland showed that, after a downward trend in the previous 12 months, the last quarter of 2022 saw the highest number in a single quarter since 2021, at 295 suspected deaths. In 2021, Scotland saw the highest number of alcohol-specific deaths since 2008.
The Salvation Army has worked with the University of Stirling since 2017 when it established the Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Service Research (SACASR) to fund pioneering research on substance use and related interventions that can prevent problems and reduce harms for individuals, their families and communities.