July 2020 | Page 20

LETTERS AND COMMENT HAVE YOUR SAY Write to the editor and get it off your chest [email protected] ‘Jake took his own life on 23 August 2015 after a tenmonth battle with his mental health and self-medicating with “benzos”. What I saw in our quest to get him help was beyond words.’ INSIDE THE BENZO TRAP I read with interest ‘The Benzo Trap’ by Kevin Flemen (DDN, June, page 6). I recognised every issue covered, as my son Jake was himself in ‘the benzo trap’ five years ago. It was a world that I knew nothing about then, but sadly now I have some insight and a little knowledge of it. Jake took his own life on 23 August 2015 after a ten-month battle with his mental health and self-medicating with ‘benzos’. What I saw in our quest to get him help was beyond words. Jake was denied a dual diagnosis, could not get a safe prescription for diazepam, was passed from pillar to post, told to continue to source diazepam from the internet, and suffered a seizure when trying to detox himself. It was just awful. The coroner issued a Regulation 28 to prevent future deaths and commented that she was ‘baffled by the systems’ which she went on to describe as ‘disjointed’. I spent two years following up the Coroner’s recommendations and am aware of some changes. I am passionate about change and plan to mark the fifth anniversary of Jake’s death in August by revisiting of all of the recommendations made by the coroner and contacting all of the agencies concerned. Dual diagnosis is of particular interest to me. I want to know what Jake’s experience would be today. Many thanks for highlighting these issues in DDN. Mel Anderton, by email HAVING OUR SAY It was useful to hear of the new forum for commissioners (DDN, June, page 11) – I expect there are plenty of people, like myself, who are interested in this. I hope that when it gets going it is open to involvement from those who aren’t commissioners but have a vested interest in informed and good quality commissioning practice. Too often we hear about the activities, decisions, action plans and charters of ‘closed’ groups after a consultation that has involved talking to their own narrow membership, such as the treatment providers. Please don’t forget the service users in all of this – the people who you are setting out to help in the first place. We have a lot to say and a lot to give. A Barnes, by email FIGHTING SPIRIT Bill Nelles’ series is fascinating, thank you. I came into this field when the Alliance was on the downward. These articles have made me start to look up what user activism used to mean. Am I the only person to be terrified at the demise of harm reduction? Is there anyone out there from the ‘old days’ who is still passionate about making a difference? Even looking back at the old issues of DDN in your archive makes me feel that we have lost a lot of the old fighting spirit. Stephen West, by email PICTURE YOUR STORY All the best stories have a moment of identification. The reader or viewer may not have directly experienced the events of the story, but in the moment they form a psychological connection with the storyteller. These moments are a bridge whereby the viewer can empathise with the storyteller and share an understanding of their inner life and circumstances. The film critic Roger Ebert said, ‘the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.’ Over the last five years we’ve curated an amazing array of stories through the Recovery Street Film Festival and distributed them far and wide to help create these wonderful moments of empathetic identification. Festival films have been screened everywhere from high streets, to prisons, to the Houses of Commons and Lords. We believe the more we can close the gap between the lived experience of people in addiction and recovery and the those without direct experience, the more likely we are to be able to reduce the stigma of addiction. Stigma misleads us to believe another person is a risk to us, it leads to marginalisation and discrimination. But the moments of identification that run through our festival films tell us the truth – that other person is us, someone who shares our journey. This year we’ve moved the festival online. We’re open for submissions of your one-minute films until Monday 3 August. So if you have lived experience of addiction please do share your experience with us. This year’s theme is ‘isolation’, something many of us have experienced in different ways recently. But the theme is just a starting point, so be as creative or simplistic as you wish. If you’ve got fancy film making equipment to use then great, if not use your smartphone camera. Check out the details at www.rsff.co.uk and find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. James Armstrong, Phoenix Futures DDN welcomes your letters Please email the editor, [email protected], or post them to DDN, CJ Wellings Ltd, Romney House, School Road, Ashford, Kent TN27 0LT. Letters may be edited for space or clarity. /ddnmagazine @ddnmagazine www.drinkanddrugsnews.com 20 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • JULY/AUGUST 2020 WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM