DrugFAM provides support to families, friends and partners affected by someone else’s substance and alcohol misuse or addiction. We aim to ensure that those who turn to us are listened to, understood and supported. We believe passionately that no-one should struggle with the stigma from wider society or be left in isolation, fear and ignorance of our local and national support.

Our strategic aims:

1. To support families, friends and partners affected by someone’s addiction to drugs or alcohol.

2. To support families and friends of those who are bereaved by addiction to drugs or alcohol including addiction to prescribed and over the counter purchased drugs

3. To educate and raise awareness in schools, universities, colleges and wider society of the impact of someone’s addiction, or substance related death and its impact on communities, families, friends and partners. There is a new one-hour version of the play adapted from the Founder of DrugFAM’s book ‘Mum can you lend me twenty quid? What drugs did to my family’ with add on workshops which will be launched in November 2018. This play includes death by suicide and opportunities for discussion about how addiction and suicide are connected. It will also promote awareness of both NSPA and SASP.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

DrugFAM has a history of working with families, friends and partners who are affected by someone else’s addiction to drugs or alcohol, or who are bereaved by addiction – many of these through suicide (a high risk related group).

We hold a DrugFAM national annual conference every October. This is a safe, caring and very well run space for people to gather from all over the UK to share their experiences and is facilitated by experienced professionals in the field.

We also hold quarterly support groups, one to one support, befriending, dedicated email and telephone support. We are available seven days a week from 9-9pm on our helpline 0300 888 3853.

Reducing Suicide

DrugFAM understands the difficulties of living with or caring for someone who uses drugs and alcohol. Living with this often presents the constant threat of suicide by the user as their life becomes unmanageable. Suicide is also used as a means to manipulate the family member and therefore leaves families with a very difficult issue to navigate through. DrugFAM’s support is invaluable during these periods. Sadly, for some of our clients they may also find themselves at a point of distress where they feel they can no longer cope, calling us when they are contemplating suicide themselves. They may also wish to be with their loved one who has died from drug or alcohol addiction and need the support of our bereavement service.

Bereaved by Suicide

We understand that bereavement through addiction, coupled with suicide typically brings up a range of complex emotions. Combined with the stigma attached to losing someone in this way and the potential negative media coverage means that grieving can be particularly difficult. This can result in family, friends and carers wanting to withdraw and isolate themselves which can add to their distress. We believe that offering people a safe place to share their thoughts and feelings with others, who have gone through similar experiences, can help with grieving and alleviate any sense of shame and isolation.

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What are your current priorities?

DrugFAM currently delivers a range of interventions which are preventative in nature and raise the issue of suicide. This includes peer led workshops and presentations delivered by family members who themselves have personal experiences of these issues. We are also about to deliver a Theatre for Social Changed version ‘Mum, can you lend me twenty quid’ which highlights the issues of suicide and the impact this can have on families. The play provides opportunities to raise public awareness and break down stigma. Our work education and awareness-raising work extends to prisons, schools, local communities and businesses and therefore reaches a wide and varied audience. We are also aiming to work with more universities where the suicide rate is very high.

DrugFAM currently experiences some challenges in terms of partnership working. We appreciate this is often due to staffing and resources and local policy, but aim to continue to promote and develop our interagency working practices. We recognise the benefit of these partnerships as being integral to the best outcomes for our clients. We are currently looking to join local consortiums which include the police, drug services, other key agencies and the National Suicide Alliance. We work closely with mental health services, but feel there is more we can do to promote the work we offer. These opportunities will enhance our links with other agencies who are working with those at risk of suicide and whose families can benefit from our services.

DrugFAM is keen to ensure our staff and volunteers are able to respond to suicide prevention and bereavement in a sensitive and empathetic manner. Our volunteers and staff are provided with regular training which includes bereavement and trauma to ensure we provide high quality support services. When our clients are ready we offer support for them to join DrugFAM to become a peer support volunteer.

DrugFAM is aware of the need to support young people in their own right when they are bereaved by addiction. Our young person’s project provides opportunities to meet others in a similar situation share their stories and access their emotions in a safe, supportive environment. The project supports young people to develop ways to process and cope with their loss so they can move forward with their lives, not feel so alone and challenge the stigma often associated with bereavement through drugs and alcohol and associated suicide.

At the core of all our work is the opportunity to break the stigma associated with a loved one’s addiction to drugs or alcohol, or bereavement through addiction – which often is suicide related. We aim to help families, friends and carers to find ways of coping better with their situations, so they can start to regain control over their lives and look after their own wellbeing. This is achieved by providing services which help to reduce the stigma associated with having a substance misuser in the family; raise awareness that addiction is a family disease and can happen to anyone regardless of background, race, religion or social class; and encourage substance misers to look at the impact of their actions on their families and loved ones.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

The challenges presented to DrugFAM

– Lack of coordination between services and Information sharing governance

– Training and volunteer development

– Breaking down the stigma associated with bereavement by addiction and suicide

– Reaching young people who are bereaved by addiction and suicide

– Education and awareness-raising for local communities, schools and professionals

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