A NEW campaign shares letters to loved ones lost to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to reduce stigma around such deaths.

“Everyone knows someone” is the message behind the See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland campaign by academics and advocacy organisations.

A website shares hard-hitting stories and videos from family and friends in the form of letters. 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”.

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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 aims to challenge the judgment 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.

Philip’s father, Michael, died as a result of alcohol on what was his son’s fourth birthday. In his video, Philip 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 about 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:

Ann says: “In a way I couldn’t bear to look at you, not because you were so ill looking but because I know it could’ve been me. I’m sorry I let you down.”

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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.

Tessa Parkes, Professor in Substance Use and Inclusion Health and co-director of the Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research at the University of Stirling, said: “Problems with drugs and alcohol affect many people in Scotland, no matter what their background, job, family situation, or income is.

“See Beyond – See the Lives – Scotland aims to dispel the images that persist of someone in a gutter surrounded by syringes or empty bottles.”