If people experience poor treatment or stigmatising behaviour once or more than once in one service , it means they are unlikely to go back to the service and ask for help again .
We needed to put the voice of lived experience into every room , added Tim Sampey , chief executive of Build on Belief , who also worked on the project . This would demonstrate that ‘ this is what stigma feels like and these are the consequences , because one of the things we heard was that nobody would ever consider making complaints about anything . Consequently , stigma and selfstigma meant that people didn ’ t even access health services half the time until their health problems were really , really serious ,’ he said . ‘ So whichever part of the drug and alcohol treatment system we work for we really have to think about how are we going to challenge stigma with our colleagues elsewhere in the health field , or we ’ re not going to get anywhere .’
CALL FOR UNITY ‘ I think we talk about stigma in this sector a lot more than we used to but that doesn ’ t resonate out into other sectors where it needs to ,’ said Karen Biggs , chief executive of Phoenix Futures , a service with experience of leading a powerful anti-stigma campaign .
‘ It ’ s very easy to feel that you ’ re on a hiding to nothing around tackling stigma when you hear politicians using incredibly stigmatising language and that being a thread through our policy approaches ,’ she said . It was in our power to change things , but we needed to work more effectively together and have ‘ solidarity for each other ’.
One of the most effective ways forward was to realise ‘ the power of lived experience and that people in recovery can really start making a difference to adjusting the concept of self-stigma and self-worth ,’ said national recovery champion , Ed Day .
He talked about ‘ parity of esteem for peer-led lived experience groups ’, which were often separated out from the addiction services . But there was real opportunity at the moment , coming from the Dame Carol Black review , which he believed had brought together different communities – the providers , the family groups the commissioners , and the people with lived experience – and which had been reinforced by the day ’ s event . ‘ We ’ ve all got to work together , we ’ ve got to stop circling the wagons and shooting each other ,’ he said . ‘ We ’ ve got to work to a common purpose now .’
The call for unity was shared by members of the English Substance Use Commissioners Group , who saw the therapeutic alliance as ‘ the most significant driver of outcomes … with the bond that we ’ re working to agreed goals and agreed plans ,’ said Kim Hager . Niamh Cullen , a commissioner in Calderdale added that ‘ our real and our very strong asset is that over the last ten years we ’ ve grown a highly visible community called Calderdale in Recovery that ’ s been constituted as a community organisation . This has been really key to us addressing stigma .’
CHALLENGING LEADERSHIP For Sarah Galvani , professor of social research and substance use at Manchester Metropolitan University , it was a clear case of needing to challenge leadership . While we needed that vital involvement of people with lived experience , she pointed out that ‘ people aren ’ t going to come out and not be anonymous while we have that kind of really insidious kind of culture and wider public messages from leadership ’ – messages that perpetuated the view that ‘ no one likes a drug user ’. There was no alternative : changing this had to ‘ start with a very courageous and bold policy shift ’, she said . DDN View conference sessions at www . nhsapa . org / stigma-conference-2021
STAMPING OUT STIGMA
‘ If you ’ ve got somebody [ working in a service ] who makes you feel like they don ’ t want to be there themselves , or that you ’ re just a burden , it becomes that whole subtle psychological fight with yourself that you ’ re being a waste of space to somebody else .’ Mel Getty , Aurora Project
‘ Stigma does affect people ’ s experience of hospitals and yet there are things that we can do … often what people really respond to is simple kindness that is shown as well as the expertise that can be offered .’ Dr Derrett Watts
‘ We all know the horrible terms that can be floating about like junkie … I think that language is really important and it ’ s complicated because we all use language all the time to describe ourselves and describe other people and I don ’ t think it ’ s just as simple as saying don ’ t use those terms … I think it ’ s really important that people think about their language and how to use it .’ Paul Lennon , Aurora Project
‘ We ’ ve got a drug unit now that ’ s cross departmental so that helps the step change … we ’ ve been far too long siloed outside of systems .’ Jon Shorrock , The Joint Combating Drugs Unit
‘ It ’ s about upgrading their awareness that it ’ s not okay to be treated like that regardless of what you ’ re going in for – whether you ’ re going in for Calpol for the kids or for your methadone , you deserve to be met with the same respect when you go to services .’ Paula Kearney , Dublin Citywide Stigma Campaign
8 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • NOVEMBER 2021 WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM