The latest rise in drug-related deaths in Scotland was widely predicted, but it is always upsetting to hear about this number of deaths which could have been prevented. Behind these numbers are families. Whole families who continue to be devastated, left heartbroken, frustrated and angry that they first lost their loved ones to addiction, and then ultimately to death.
The number of deaths we are hearing about today is shocking, but there is an even larger group of people in Scotland who remain at high risk of serious harm and death. Many people within this group are still alive 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.
To mark the publication of the statistics, the charity Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs launched #BehindTheNumbers at the start of July. #BehindTheNumbers is a campaign which highlights and champions the hidden and unrecognised contribution by families in saving and preserving life.
The campaign has published its first two short films where family members share examples of service and system failure, leaving them holding and managing risks which should be shared with services. Family members tell powerful stories of how supporting and involving families in treatment can improve outcomes for both individuals and services, and that change is possible when families gain their voice and services begin to listen.
Justina Murray, CEO, said:
“Our thoughts today are of course with the 1,187 families who lost a loved one last year. But we know they don’t need to wait for these statistics to be published to feel bereft, let down and angry. This may be a day where the media and the policy-makers briefly shift their focus onto drug-related deaths, but families affected by drug addiction continue to face significant levels of pressure, harm and risk every day. They want to see real change, including recognition and support for their caring role, better access to high quality treatment and care for their loved ones, and the opportunity to work in partnership with services to reduce harm and promote recovery. Our #BehindTheNumbers films show we have a long way to go in achieving this, but change must come.”
The film clips and further information about #BehindTheNumbers can be viewed on the Scottish Families’ website: https://www.sfad.org.uk/behind-the-numbers