A Northamptonshire charity is urging people affected by a loved one's substance misuse to come to them for help after supporting over 650 people during the pandemic alone.
Family Support Link offers free and confidential support to both adults and children from the age of five who are affected by a family or friend's drug and alcohol related problems.
Chief executive officer at Family Support Link, Julia Feazey, said: "Our mission is to empower families and communities harmed by the use of substances to regain control and lead happier, healthier lives.
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"Families affected by substance misuse are hidden in plain sight; they are an unrecognised section of society, often stigmatised and isolated."
According to the charity, a recent ADFAM YouGov poll discovered that as many as five million people in England are adversely affected by a loved one's drug or alcohol problems.
Family Support Link provides specialist support through one-to-one work, group work, peer support and runs a telephone helpline. The charity additionally provides awareness sessions to communities, professionals and third sector agencies to increase awareness of the difficulties and issues faced by family members when their loved one is using substances harmfully.
Julia continued: " We had to diversify during the pandemic and, as well as moving our services onto digital platforms, we have seen both an increase in referrals and our clients' needs.
"We have managed to support many clients with practical support for essentials such as food, resource packs for both children and adults and assistance with energy bills.
"For many of our clients, lockdown meant that they were at home with the substance user with no respite, so it was important that we were able to diversify our support to meet their needs."
Family Support Link began to offer walk and talk appointments to allow clients some respite from their lives at home. The charity has helped to support 654 people during the pandemic and are currently working with 215 adults and children.
The charity runs a children's group called 'I Matter Too' over the school holidays using both face-to-face and digital options. They will be running the group again over the summer holidays in Northampton between August 2 to 5 and in Wellingborough between August 24 to 27. This provides children with the opportunity to meet others going through the same situation as they are, build friendships and support networks.
The charity moved all adult support groups online, bought an allotment and now runs wellbeing groups to provide clients with a more holistic approach to support.
A family member receiving peer support from Family Support Link, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Having spent years of feeling alone and basically not seeing what the effect of addiction was doing to us all, we now have FSL and certainly do not feel alone any longer.
"The group meetings that we now attend put us in touch with others, who are at varying stages of a journey through someone’s addiction and the strength, support and knowledge in numbers is amazing and so very helpful.”
Julia added: "Due to the stigma around addiction, many people feel shame and find it hard to reach out for support fearing judgement.
"As CEO I would like to say to those people reading this that you are not alone, we are here to support you."
People requiring support or further information about the services provided by Family Support Link can contact the charity on 01933 227078 or [email protected]
Alternatively, a referral can be made via the charity's website at www.familysupportlink.co.uk.