Cutting The Stigma Around Alcoholism In Families

children mental health

We need to cut through the stigma to support and encourage children to know it’s OK to speak up. They need to know it’s safe to do so and that they aren’t alone. Thankfully MP’s are finally taking action and raising awareness about children living with an alcoholic parent. Anushka Asthana from The Guardian writes about secretary Jeremy Hunt’s new strategy, which includes a new helpline for children in need.

Fighting For Children To Be Heard

This is on the back of work started off by NACOA, Caroline Flint MP and Liam Byrne MP on 14th February 2017.  Liam Byrne launched a new manifesto to help children of alcoholics in the House of Commons.  Later Jon Ashworth joined the fight for children to be heard and for the appropriate help to be provided by their local councils.  The manifesto states that over 2.6 million children suffer from the effects of a parent that drinks too much, though we really don’t know an accurate number.  Children of alcoholics are taught not to trust, feel or speak so it’s a big task and one we struggle to really get to the bottom of in terms of figures.

Investing Into A National Support Helpline

It’s great to hear that the government are committing to £500,000 to expand the existing local support line offered by NACOA into a national helpline. I do agree with Jon Ashworth that we need to ensure the promises by government are backed up with actions.

Even though £500,000 is a lot of money, in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t. Alcohol Concern report that the cost to the NHS for alcohol harm is a shocking £3.5 billion every year. Alcohol-related crime in the UK is estimated to cost between £8bn and £13bn per year. There is also the cost to businesses to consider, alcohol abuse affects employees and their employers. Staff either being unproductive, not turning up to work or colleagues having to cover for them.

Obviously there are a lot of people in the UK that do drink responsibly, this really isn’t about judging people but ensuring they have the best support and more importantly the family receive the support they need.

Alcoholism Isn’t All Black And White

Defining someone that is alcohol dependant isn’t clear cut, it’s a complex issue but in my experience it’s about the reason we chose to drink. This could be to numb a feeling or to feel a certain way and the impact it starts to have on our lives. A clear indicator is when we can’t survive without it.

My focus is always on the family members, children are the most vulnerable and I’m glad to see things being put into place to support them. That said, those children grow up and the problems don’t stop there. If issues aren’t dealt with they carry them into their adult life and can potentially suffer with their own addictions, co-dependency, depression, anxiety, self-harm and so much more.

These adult children of alcoholics or indeed partners, friends, grandparents and parents may need to rely on NHS services to support them. If we can catch this early enough, we have a slightly better chance of making a big difference on their lives.

We need to cut through the stigma to support and encourage children to know it’s OK to speak up, that it’s safe to do so and just like mental health, they aren’t alone.


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