Not just words: Toolkits for tackling stigma and shame around alcohol
Research has demonstrated that, whether we are aware of it or not, the use of certain terms generates biases that can influence the formation and effectiveness of social and public health policies to address alcohol and other drug problems.
Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, hepatologist and chair of SHAAP, has highlighted the important role that journalists play in helping to break down stigma and stereotypes. As such, the Reporting of Substance toolkit outlines five key recommendations on imagery, language, case studies, support information, and education and stigma.
Alcohol Action Ireland has also launched a useful anti-stigma guide to help the media and members of the public avoid using stigmatising phrases, adopt more compassionate language and understand the impact certain words can have on people.
Alcohol use in rural and islands communities
Writing about alcohol use in rural and island communities in Scotland, Emma Roddick MSP explains that risky drinking among young people in her region is often linked to the notion that ‘there’s nothing else for kids to do.’
However, the idea that society seems to revolve around alcohol is evident across all ages: in rural communities, most groups and social activities take place in the local pub. This prevalence and normalisation of alcohol can lead to widespread and hazardous alcohol consumption.
In addition to a lack of alcohol-free spaces, rural communities face serious transport issues, as well as other problems accessing healthcare. This has been corroborated by research from SHAAP, which reported access problems as a top issue, along with social stigma. Emma will continue to work with the Scottish government and local organisations to ensure people in rural areas can access the treatment they need.
Alcohol labelling in Ireland
Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) has been honoured and heartened by the overwhelming support from 61 public health advocates across the world who have endorsed Ireland’s draft regulations for alcohol labelling to the EU scrutiny process. 70% of the submissions received were strongly supportive – a figure that closely matches the public support for these measures, as indicated in a recent poll. Because a number of member states have issued opinions, there is now a further standstill period until 22 December 2022 while the European Commission considers the matter. AAI very much appreciates the support from AHAUK and its members in this ongoing campaign.
Meanwhile, some alcohol producers in Ireland have recently launched a digital e-label using QR codes to promote ‘responsible drinking’. Such a response is clearly not an acceptable alternative to the democratically mandated statutory labelling requirements of the Irish state.
Recovery Films Festival 2022
This year, the Recovery Street Film Festival asked for short film submissions themed around the question: ‘Who am I?‘
The shortlisted films were screened at the Everyman Cinema in Chelsea on 30 September. This year’s winner was Ceri Walker for her film ‘Understanding the Child in Me.’
In Ceri’s film, she speaks to her childhood self, delving into the deep impacts of growing up with a parent who drinks too much. Ceri says: ‘I see that my experience was still traumatic, regardless of why, and I was never to blame – no child is ever to blame! I hope other children of alcoholics see this, and that it helps them to feel a kindness towards themselves that they may not have felt before.’
Scottish Families Family Recovery Initiative Fund
The Family Recovery Initiative Fund (FRIF) offers one-off grants of up to £5,000 to groups that support families affected by alcohol and drugs in Scotland.
The aim of FRIF is to improve the wellbeing of family members affected by someone else’s harmful substance use, based on creating opportunities for people to connect with others through group activities and, if required, access further support (with this group or through services).
If you are interested in applying for a grant, please contact Debra Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tich Watson (email@example.com) at Scottish Families to discuss your idea.
Tackling stigma in action: visibility, education and language
8 November, 9.30am
AHA parliamentary reception
Alcohol Health Alliance
16 November, 3–5pm
More information to follow
MCA annual symposium on alcohol and health
Medical Council on Alcohol
Public health team efforts to reduce alcohol harms at local authority level: New insights from ExILEnS and CICA research on licensing and community-led approaches
ExILEnS and CICA, University of Stirling
More information to follow
Meet the Members
Every month, we speak to a member of the AHA to find out more about what they do and how their organisation is working to end alcohol harm.
Today we meet Shohima Chowdhury, specialist substance misuse nurse at Turning Point.
How does your organisation help to reduce alcohol harm?
At Turning Point, we offer an integrated approach to care and treatment, tailored to an individual’s needs. Our alcohol recovery workers complete comprehensive assessments with all individuals entering treatment, formulate bespoke care and risk management plans, provide evidenced-based one-to-one and group-based psychosocial interventions, and make needs-led onward referrals.
We deliver a programme both online and face to face, which focuses on identifying triggers, managing cravings, making positive lifestyle changes and harm reduction. We also provide community detoxes and other clinical interventions that help to reduce alcohol harm.
For service users who have co-existing substance use and mental health issues, we have a designated team who offer enhanced care co-ordination and interventions to help service users manage some of these difficulties and access the right support. We also have other specialist teams for rough sleepers, young people, and those in the criminal justice system, as well as lead recovery workers within hospital settings, diverse communities, and who provide support to families and carers who are affected by substance use.
Everyone here at Turning Point brings their clinical expertise together to support the client’s journey in treatment, underlining the importance of multidisciplinary team working in reducing alcohol-rated harm.
What inspires you most in your job?
The service users! I thoroughly enjoy working with our alcohol client group as they give me new challenges every week and help me think more critically. Our approach is solution-focused: changing someone’s life for the better. Through short-term, achievable goals and objectives, we create long-term impact.
There is always so much support that Turning Point has on offer to anyone affected by alcohol – including family members and carers. We aim to ensure that everyone who uses our services and who we see in clinics leaves satisfied with the support and interventions that they receive. The feedback that I have personally received from service users, professionals and other colleagues inspires me to continue to do the best that I can to support them.
What change do you think would make the biggest difference in reducing alcohol harm?
We have developed a suite of digital interventions for service users, all of which are available on our website. I think that if we can develop and increase our social media presence, we have a better chance of reaching more clients. Continuous staff training and development as well as networking with others of various disciplines is also key in providing the best care.