‘Everyone knows someone’ is the message behind See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland, a new campaign from academics and advocacy organisations that aims to reduce the stigma that surrounds deaths due to alcohol and drugs.
See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland’s website shares hard-hitting stories and videos from family and friends, in the form of a letter to their loved one who has died. It also includes resources and advice for those harmed by substance use whether for themselves or a family member or friend.
The groups behind the campaign – the University of Stirling, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and The Salvation Army – say its messaging is deliberately stark and designed to “challenge and provoke”. They hope the stories and images will shatter myths surrounding drug and alcohol use and deaths and encourage the public to show compassion for those experiencing problems with substance use and the people left behind when a loved one dies.
The campaign, which launches on social media tomorrow [May 1, 2023], aims to challenge the judgement and stereotypes that people often bring to the topic of substance use, and to people who have problems with alcohol or drugs and their families.
In his video Philip, whose father Michael died as a result of alcohol on his fourth birthday, thanks his father, despite the “anger, tears, jealousy and frustration” he says he felt growing up. “Thanks because in a messed up way, my experiences with you have made me the dad I am – a good one,” Philip writes.
Ann writes to her friend Carol of the guilt she has for not visiting her in hospital when Carol was dying from health problems she experienced as a result of her alcohol use: “In a way I couldn’t bear to look at you, not because you were so ill looking, but because I know that it could’ve been me. I’m sorry I let you down.”
Irene, mother of Graeme, who died in 2020, talks of fighting to keep him alive – literally, when she performed CPR on him after he collapsed. “We both knew alcohol addiction was an illness, not a lifestyle choice like some people think,” she writes.
“I am who I am because of you, not in spite of you. I hope you know that I loved you then as I love you now, exactly as you were,” writes Holly to her mother Mary Jane, who died due to drugs in 2020. She adds: “I hope writing this letter can be part of keeping your memory alive and of helping people to see that you, like so many others like you, are people like the rest of us, deserving of love, care, treatment, and effort.”
Read further from SHAAP (Scotland, April 2023)
Find more from the campaign page