This #AlcoholAwarenessWeek we thought it would be good to introduce you to the member of our team who leads on our Addiction Support Programme:
Hi I’m Row, Senior Service Delivery Officer for Grants. As well as supporting individuals in need of financial assistance, I also oversee our Addiction Support helpline. I work alongside our specialist addiction counsellor to ensure anyone who reaches out for help gets the best support possible – for them and their families. I also provide ongoing support with others in recovery through our peer support group.
Despite having the immense training and knowledge to assist and support the general public, those working in the health sector aren’t immune to mental and physical health problems. In fact, from our 2019 research with the RPS, nearly three-quarters of respondents to the survey on workplace wellbeing said their training or working life has had an impact on their mental health and wellbeing at some point.
The difference, and often difficulty, for healthcare workers is that their professional status makes it difficult for them to seek support and treatment for some illnesses as openly as others. As the charity for pharmacists, we know that reaching out for addiction support in particular can, with the looming threat of ‘fitness to practice’ investigations, cause a great deal of stress.
The daily responsibility of life in a pharmacy and worries around making a mistake, teamed with increasing workloads, budget cuts and targets can cause some to seek relief from a variety of substances, which can quite easily lead then to abuse. Add to this personal pressures and stress, and the ongoing pandemic, and it’s easy to see why we’ve seen many calls this year to our Addiction Support Helpline, all of which have resulted in referrals to our specialist addictions counsellor. Over 70% of these were for support with alcohol dependency.
We’ve recently supported someone who had been struggling immensely with alcohol addiction and was subsequently being investigated by the GPhC. Not only was the addiction jeopardising his career, but Ben* told us he was also close to losing his family. At first, we provided him with a Listening Friend – a trained pharmacist and volunteer who offers callers the opportunity to talk anonymously and in confidence about any stresses they are facing in their work or home life. It soon became clear however that Ben needed more specialist and immediate support, which is why we decided to fast track him into a rehabilitation centre for residential treatment. For one month, he had daily psychiatrist sessions and group therapy, as well as medication and nourishment interventions. Upon leaving, we have been continuing our support through voluntary online peer support sessions, which complements the AA and sponsor meetings that Ben’s been going to.
Although it isn’t the end of his journey, I’m pleased to report that Ben has described coming out of an extremely grave situation with a newfound optimism, sense of self-worth and focus on his responsibilities for his family. Ben wanted to bravely share his story with our pharmacy family so that others in the same situation don’t feel alone and are encouraged to seek help. As a charity whose vision is that no one in our pharmacy family will face challenging times without us by their side, it was equally moving and encouraging to hear Ben say that the support he had from Pharmacist Support has been ‘life-saving and life-changing’.
During Alcohol Awareness Week, we wanted to reach out especially to those in our pharmacy family who are struggling to manage dependency issues of any sort, and indeed to anyone feels themselves becoming reliant on substances. You are not alone. We encourage you to reach out to us and take advantage of our free and confidential addiction support service and resources. While recovery from addiction can seem daunting, with the right strategies, treatment and support, change is possible; and we are here for you every step of the way.
*To protect his identity, we have used a fake name.
Pharmacist Support’s Addiction Support Programme exists to support people experiencing problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, eating disorders or other types of dependency. This service provides access to fully qualified addiction specialists, and all calls to the helpline are entirely confidential. If you have a dependency issue, or if you know of a friend or colleague with a problem, you can contact the Addiction Support Programme direct for advice on 0808 168 5132 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org