Our top 5 online support services

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A lot of the time, we phone organisations when we are looking for help – that’s why helplines are still very popular. Our own Scottish Families helpline takes up 40% of our monthly contacts, but at the same time our online support (web chat, email and web contact form) takes up 60% of our contacts. This stat has only recently changed in the past few months with online contacts greater than phone-based callers.

Online support like web chat or email can be an easier way for people to reach out for support. Over-the-phone or in person may be difficult for some people as it can make people nervous, embarrassed, stressed and feel they are being judged. By being able to take your time and type what you want to say, people are able to say exactly how they feel and not feel pressured in any way.

We’ve put together our top five online support services (shamelessly plugging our own web chat too) into a list. If you know of any other great online support services tag us on Twitter @ScotFamADrugs and tell us about it.

  1. Scottish Families web chat and email https://www.sfad.org.uk/
  2. Addaction web chat https://www.addaction.org.uk/
  3. Families Outside web chat https://www.familiesoutside.org.uk/
  4. Adfam message boards https://adfam.org.uk/help-for-families/finding-support/forum
  5. Childline https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/1-2-1-counsellor-chat/

Scottish Families web chat and email

Well, we had to mention our own service, didn’t we? The Scottish Families webchat sits proudly on the bottom right of our website www.sfad.org.uk. The chat service is available on mobile and on a desktop.

Our web chat is for anyone concerned about someone else’s alcohol or drug use, information for yourself, signposting and contact details of groups or services in your local area and advice for supporting a family member, friend, anyone, affected by alcohol or drugs.

When an adviser is not online, you can leave us a message on the chat window and someone will be in touch as soon as they can.

We also encourage people to send emails to helpline@sfad.org.uk, especially if one of our advisers are not online as you will get a quicker response this way. Our emails are monitored throughout the day Monday – Friday and weekends 9am-11pm so someone is always there to reply when they can.

Addaction web chat

We couldn’t not mention the Addaction webchat. With its brilliant, open and friendly design, it’s no wonder the service is so active and praised. People can see who it is they are talking to and can specify exactly what information it is they are looking for before the chat begins.

The Addaction webchat is available Monday – Friday from 10am – 4pm and 6pm – 9pm. It is also open on weekends from 11am – 4pm.

Whether you need information for yourself or advice to support a friend or relative our web chat service is here for everyone.’

Visit Addaction’s web chat – https://www.addaction.org.uk/

Families Outside web chat

Good friends of ours, Families Outside, support families affected by imprisonment in Scotland. Their support includes webchat over on their website https://www.familiesoutside.org.uk/ and they also have a helpline 0800 254 0088 and email support@familiesoutside.org.uk.  Lines are open Monday to Friday.

Families Outside have vital services. Imprisonment can be a traumatic, frightening and difficult experience for family members to go through. Families Outside can support with advice and:

  • If you are worried about how you are coping
  • What you need to know about visiting the prison
  • Who to talk to at the prison
  • Advice on claiming travel expenses
  • Any queries about home leave or your relative’s release
  • If you are concerned about your relative is coping
  • Any worries about the children
  • Putting you in touch with your local services
  • Or if you just need someone to talk to

Adfam message boards

The Adfam message boards have been around a while and still receive high levels of engagement every day. Since their website redesign (mid-2018), Adfam has added extra categories to the boards. Originally they had one thread of ‘share your story’ which was popular and worked well. Now they have the boards ‘drugs, alcohol and mental health’ and ‘bereavement’.

The Adfam message boards are easy to use, you just need to sign-up and log-in, and they provide excellent peer to peer support. People are able to share their experiences, support each other, and listen to useful advice and support from people in similar situations.

View the boards and chat with others here – https://adfam.org.uk/help-for-families/finding-support/forum



Childline is an excellent charity, there’s no doubt about that. They also have some of the best online services I have seen. Their one-to-one chat (available here – https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/1-2-1-counsellor-chat/) is friendly and easy to use. They even have a ‘waiting room’ with a colour to let young people know how long their wait-time may be and if there is a counsellor ready to chat.

They also have very active message boards which are easy to search through and have many different areas for young people to go to including information on Childline, health and wellbeing, emotions, and home and school. The message boards can be viewed here – https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/message-boards/

Childline also has a letter support service called Ask Sam. Young people are able to write out a letter and send it over and will get a reply. The replies are all public for people to read. https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/ask-sam/

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