Alcohol Awareness Week in West Sussex
Wednesday 16th November, 2011
Parents across West Sussex are being urged to think drink and talk to their children about alcohol.
This week, as part of Alcohol Awareness Week, events are taking place across the county so that people can get alcohol advice, talk about your own drinking behaviour and find out more about what help and support is available if you are concerned about a family member or friend.
Events are taking place in town centres, community halls and schools, and for the first time this year organisations are coordinating their activities on Twitter – providing one place where people can go to find out exactly what is happening across West Sussex this week.
Details of events, advice and information are all being posted on Twitter by West Sussex expert organisations using the hashtag of #WSAlcoholAware.
People can search on Twitter using the hashtag, and find out what is happening close to them, or where they can go for support.
A focus on young people
Many of the events are focused on young people, encouraging them to talk about their attitude to drinking, discuss what they think is right and wrong, and make sure they have access to accurate information and advice.
Alcohol misuse is a growing problem in West Sussex – in a recent survey of 14-15 year olds, 12% of boys and 13% of girls said they were regular binge drinkers. In addition a survey of 16-24 year olds found that 30% of boys and 19% of girls said they regular drank more than the recommended amounts.
Kate Bailey, Public Health Consultant in West Sussex, said: “The younger that people start drinking, the greater the impact it will have on their health and wellbeing in the long term.
"Drinking above the recommended levels can increase the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, liver disease, strokes and other diseases, but it is not only about long-term health risks, there are also short term risks such as links to anti-social behaviour, violence, crime or unwanted pregnancy.
“Across West Sussex, we are working closely with our NHS partners, local authorities, the police and the voluntary sector to make sure that young people have access to accurate information and advice about alcohol use.
"We have recently met with secondary school headteachers across West Sussex, and will be working increasingly closely with them to ensure there is good information and support to students about alcohol and its impacts.
“If it reaches a point where a young person needs help, or their family needs support, we have a range of services that are there to work with them through the difficult time.”
Talking to young people
Families are being encouraged this week to talk to their children about alcohol and also think about how their own drinking habits may impact on their children.
Latest figures show that more than 2,000 people in West Sussex regular drink more than the recommended levels of alcohol, and last year there were more than 15,000 hospital admissions relating to alcohol in the county.
Kate continued: ““Parents are in the best position to help their children make informed decisions about alcohol and what is sensible drinking.
"Although it may not seem like it sometimes, research has shown that teenagers would rather get advice on drinking from their mum and dad than anyone else.
“Parents have a huge influence on their children’s attitude to alcohol, often without realising it, and so we would ask parents across the county to take this opportunity to make sure their children know how to avoid the dangers of too much alcohol.”
“Alcohol misuse doesn’t just affect the person who is drinking too much – it affects parents, brothers and sisters, partners, children and friends. If your son or daughter is drinking too much it can impact on the whole family.
“There is help available - there is a range of support on offer across the county for anyone affected by alcohol. This includes services for people concerned about their own alcohol use and services for people worried about family members or friends.”
There is a range of support on offer across West Sussex, both for adults and young people, including one-to-one counselling, group sessions and treatment referral.
If you are concerned about your drinking or the behaviour of a loved one, speak to your GP or one of the free NHS services locally.
To find out more and see what services are available close to you visit our services page.
Advice for parents includes:
- Be a positive role model. Adults should drink within the daily recommended guidelines (3-4 units a day for men, 2-3 units for women).
- Introduce the topic early - the average age for young people to have their first alcoholic drink is 13.
- Don’t make alcohol a taboo subject - ensure your child can talk freely with you about alcohol. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, soap operas or news stories can provide a useful trigger.
- If your child does get drunk try not to overreact - talk to them about it the next morning: listen to what they have to say and try to understand their situation.
Real life stories
Here is the story of one father who was helped by the services available:
Geoff contacted the Families & Friends Network in April this year. He was concerned about his 24-year-old son drinking too much. Geoff’s son has recently split from his long-term girlfriend and moved back home with Geoff and his wife. They also have a 16-year-old son living at home.
Geoff’s eldest son was drinking a lot, which was affecting his work and his relationship with his family. He had also been aggressive towards Geoff and damaged property in the family home. Geoff also had concerns over how much his son was spending. He was always trying to borrow more cash and was making excuses for not contributing to the family home expenses.
Geoff felt the situation was out of control and his own health as suffering because of the stress at home.
Within a week of contacting the Network, Geoff and his wife were visiting their nearest drop in service. After a warm welcome and with the kettle on, they talked through the issues at home and explored the support options available to the whole family with the drop in advisors. Geoff said the drop in was “friendly & welcoming, I was relieved to have attended.”
Geoff decided he would like to attend a local support group on a monthly basis and speak to the Patched helpline or come back to the drop-in in-between times. Geoff’s wife was happy to keep coming to the drop in as and when she needed to.
Geoff said: “Thanks to the support we received I accepted that only my son could change his behaviour, but my wife and I realised that we could set boundaries on what we thought was acceptable for the good of the whole family. We were also confident to carry out the consequences if anyone stepped over the boundaries.
“I felt empowered to talk to my son and pass on the information I had been given so that he was aware of where to go for help and support. I also felt more confident to talk to him about how his drinking was affecting him and the rest of the family.
“The last few months have been difficult, but thanks to the support, we feel more in control of the situation as a family, and this has improved things significantly for us all.”
*Geoff is not his real name.
The Family and Friends Network supports anyone who is affected by someone else’s drinking or drug use. You can call them on 01243 382641 or via their Patched helpline on 0800 085 4450. The Network is open Monday - Friday from 10am until 10pm.
Here is the story of a man who has overcome his alcohol misuse and now uses his experiences to help others:
At the age of 14 I started drinking too much, and later moved onto cannabis, which soon became problematic.
As a consequence of my drink and drug misuse, I would find myself in police stations, courts and hospitals. This later developed into a pattern that included failed marriages and relationships, with children involved.
In 2006, at the age of 45 I went to the doctors seeking help, from there I went to support, then into detox and onto a self-empowered rehab for six months and a dry house for a further three months.
On my return I attended a relapse prevention group at Addaction where I got involved with a service user group and then Exact.
My journey so far, as difficult and challenging as it has been, has been one of inspiration from the people that provide services, the peers I have met and worked alongside and the associations I have made in my recovery journey.
Today I feel have choices - and I choose to live and give back.
Exact gives a voice for people who use services, and actively consult with its clients so that services locally can be built upon their experiences. If you want to get involved contact the Exact coordinator, Brian Morgan, on 01243 382624 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out what is happening in West Sussex for Alcohol Awareness Week by visiting Twitter and searching for the hashtag #WSAlcoholAware
Schools being visited during the week include Robert Woodyard Academy, Northbrook College, Shoreham Academy, Bourne Community College, Felpham Community College
Monday 14th November
- 12.30pm to 2.30pm - Alcohol information session - The Orchard, Crawley (run by the Families and Friends Network)
Tuesday 15th November
- 1pm to 4.30pm – Town centre information session - Worthing town centre (run by Addaction, CRI and Exact)
- 2.30 to 5pm - Harm minimisation alcohol workshop – The Foyer, Worthing (run by Addaction)
- 5pm to 7pm - Alcohol awareness activities - The Place, Worthing (Addaction and the Families and Friends Network)
- 5.30pm to 7pm - Alcohol information session - Park Barn, Horsham (Families and Friends Network)
Wednesday 16th November
- 11am to 12pm – Alcohol information session - Slug and Lettuce, Chichester (Chichester District Council’s Community Safety Team and Chichester District’s Wellbeing Team)
- 1.30pm to 4pm - Alcohol information session - Clock Walk, Bognor (Families and Friends Network)
- 7pm to 9pm - Alcohol awareness session - Roller Rink, Shoreham (CRI)
Friday 18th November
- 1pm to 4pm - Alcohol Information session - Littlehampton Recovery Community, LA REcom (Exact and Families and Friends)