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UK News

Salvation Army campaign receives MSP backing

by Sophie Drew

After continued work by the Salvation Army, a campaign to reduce the stigma around deaths as a result of alcohol and drugs has gained the support of MSPs in Scotland.

"See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland" was launched by the Salvation Army, University of Stirling, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems.

The groups are hoping to use testimonies of people affected by deaths as a result of addiction in order to “shatter myths” about substance abuse, and encourage more compassion.

At a reception in Holyrood, MSPs Miles Briggs and Monica Lennon shared their experiences of losing their fathers to alcohol addiction. Their letters are included with 14 others who have written to their loved ones on the campaign's website.

In her letter, Monica, who attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with her father in Glasgow as a teenager, writes: "A whole lot of life happens when you are waiting for rock bottom. Part of me always believed that you would fall so hard that recovery would follow. There were times it was too difficult to be around."

The campaign’s strapline is “everyone knows someone,” a slogan designed to remind people just how many are affected by substance misuse. 

Lee Ball, Director of Addictions at The Salvation Army, which helped fund the campaign, said: "Blame and shame only compound the hurt and harm of substance use. 

“The Salvation Army supports thousands of people through our addiction and harm reduction work, and we understand that people often use drugs and alcohol as a coping strategy to escape unbearable pain and trauma. 

“We welcome this campaign as it brings a voice to those who seldom get to talk about how substance use has affected them and brings a much-needed focus to the fact that this issue touches us all. It is also a powerful reminder that to save lives, you must also address the root cause of the substance use, and that means investing in addiction and mental health support services."

MSP Miles Briggs said of supporting the campaign: "The important message with See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland is that there is still stigma attached to alcohol and drug use, from how people talk about it to the judgments they bring to it. 

“Each of these letters is a rallying cry to make a change. Everyone knows someone, and we can all help steer each other towards more of an understanding of substance use and its effects on people's lives."

For the last three years, the number of deaths from alcohol use across Scotland – and the wider UK – has consistently risen. They’re rising the fastest in Scotland, the data suggest.

The latest figures for suspected drug deaths in Scotland showed that after a downward trend in the previous 12 months, the last quarter of 2022 saw the highest number in a single quarter since 2021 at 295 suspected deaths. In 2021, Scotland saw the highest number of alcohol-specific deaths since 2008.

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