In July 2019 the latest drug-related death statistics will be published, with a significant increase projected from the 934 deaths reported last year. Whole families continue to be devastated, left heartbroken, frustrated and angry that they first lost their loved ones to addiction, and ultimately to death.
Behind these numbers lies an even larger group of people at high risk of serious harm and death. This group is still alive against the odds, many thanks to the tireless, unrecognised and unsupported efforts of their families. From meeting their basic needs for food and shelter to helping them engage with an inflexible treatment system which judges and excludes, to offering them enduring love, connection and hope for the future – families are playing a central role in saving and preserving life.
Our campaign highlights and champions the hidden and unrecognised contribution of families in saving and preserving the lives of those harmed through alcohol or drugs.
Nearly a year later, we have published our ‘Findings Report’ of #BehindTheNumbers which takes on a storybook style explaining the campaign, its progress and its success. We also share story summaries and feedback from the incredible four women who took part in the campaign.
‘I’ve taken the Behind the Numbers film around a few places and been part of it and I’ve enjoyed it, not enjoyment in a happy sense, it was enjoyment in showing other families how things can change because it certainly has in our family.’ – Sandra
Most importantly, our report includes the Five Key Recommendations for Change that #BehindTheNumbers has highlighted for treatment and care providers.
Five Key Recommendations [shortened versions]:
1 – Recognise that everything families are doing for their loved one is motivated by love. Love can motivate service engagement and recovery, and inspires hope and compassion in the most challenging times.
2 – Offer family members a warm welcome in their own right, even if their loved one does not want family involvement in their care. Remember they know their loved one better than you and can give information to help with treatment and care.
3 – Listen to family members. You may not always want to hear what they say, but they will give you an honest and true reflection of any service performance issues, and how to improve your service.
4 – Treat individuals and families with dignity and respect at all times. This comes at no cost and brings significant rewards. Each one of our family members talked about being judged and stigmatised by others, including by services.
5 – Share the risk. We understand that supporting people with alcohol and drug issues involves significant risk. Not supporting people increases risk even further, including risk of harm and death.
In Spring 2020, we asked the Behind the Numbers participants to update us on how things were now, whether there had been any significant changes in their lives, their views on ongoing campaigning, and what they thought now about their involvement in the films and the campaign. We have created a further short film of these catch-up conversations. As is so common with families affected by others’ substance use, it has been a tale of ups and downs.