Campaign seeks to remove stigma associated with alcohol-related deaths

Campaigners are urging people to show compassion towards those who have lost someone due to alcohol or other drugs in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with alcohol-related deaths.

The See Beyond – See The Lives campaign, run in Scotland by a range of organisations including the University of Stirling and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), challenges the judgment and stereotypes that people often bring to the topic of substance use.

The campaign, which is also run by charity Scottish Families Affected By Alcohol and Drugs and the Salvation Army, highlights that everyone knows someone who has been affected by alcohol or drugs and that behind every life lost there are usually grieving families and friends.

It comes on the day statistics will be released detailing how many alcohol-related deaths occurred in Scotland last year.

There were 1,245 alcohol-specific deaths recorded in Scotland in 2021 and 1,051 drug-related deaths the following year.

People are urged to visit the See Beyond – See The Lives website, which features hard-hitting stories and videos recorded by the families and friends of loved ones who have died.

It also includes resources and advice for those harmed by substance use – whether for themselves or a family member or friend.

Site visitors are asked to commit to being respectful and compassionate towards those affected by substance use and to use non-judgmental language when talking about substance-use problems.

The website also encourages people to approach those who they know have been affected in order to reduce the isolation and stigma that can be faced by bereaved individuals.

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon and Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs are prominent supporters of the campaign, having both previously spoken about losing a parent to alcohol.

Both are encouraging others to do the same, to reduce the stigma around alcohol and drugs deaths.

Monica Lennon MSP, convenor of Holyrood’s cross-party group on drug and alcohol misuse, said: “As someone who has experienced the complex and devastating impact of losing a loved one to alcohol, I am extremely proud to be backing the See Beyond – See the Lives campaign.

“Stigma is not only an unhelpful by-product of alcohol and other drug problems, but is also a significant barrier for people to seek help.

“If we want to save lives and change the Scottish relationship with alcohol and other drugs, reducing the stigma associated with substance use is essential.

“By sharing my story as part of this campaign, I hope to encourage other people to talk more about the effect of alcohol and other drug use on families and loved ones, and to consider the real people behind these deaths.”

Miles Briggs MSP added: “Today’s release of the Scottish alcohol deaths statistics is a stark reminder that we need to be doing more to reduce the stigma around alcohol problems.

“Despite the extremely high levels of alcohol harm and widespread awareness in Scotland, there is still major stigma attached to alcohol problems – from the way in which people discuss this to the beliefs they have about the kind of people affected.

“That is why this campaign is so important: in order to tackle stigma we must remember that everyone really does know somebody affected. Alcohol problems are present in all walks of life and by talking about it we can work together to reduce harms.”

Elinor Jayne, director of SHAAP, commented: “Almost everybody in Scotland will know someone who has felt the heart-breaking impact of losing a loved one to alcohol or other drugs.

“As this year’s publication on Scottish alcohol deaths is released, it is vital to highlight that these are not just statistics, these are all real people who have tragically lost their life and have left a family and friends in complex and devastating grief.

“In reducing the stigma associated with alcohol and drug problems, this campaign aims to encourage us all to treat people who’ve lost someone to alcohol or drugs with compassion, as well as aiming to break down stigma so more people seek help.

“This in turn we hope will reduce the heart-breaking number of lives being lost.”

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