The mental health impacts of excess alcohol consumption were significantly impacting the quality of life and safety of a young person supported in a Keys home. Here, the manager of the home describes how the specialist support provided was able to reduce the risks to her mental and physical well-being.
Dannii* had significant substance misuse issues. She drank excessive levels of alcohol – sometimes a whole bottle of spirits at a time – whilst also taking other drugs. This impacted her mental health and led to self-harming behaviour, something that was traumatic for her and the team around her.
Long-term alcoholism affected one of her close family members and Dannii really struggled with her relationship with that relative, mimicking a number of the behaviours they displayed. She struggled to understand how alcohol impacted her family member and their relationship, which led to her feeling unwanted and uncared for by her family. This understandably had a detrimental effect on her self-worth and her relationships with the professionals around her.
It was close communications from the specialist support team at Keys – which includes Fran Gracie, our Substance Misuse Advisor, that uncovered these patterns.
Fran had a true knowledge of Dannii and her day to day struggles. Her weekly updates meant that alongside myself as the home manager, Fran could spot any trends and advise myself and my staff team on how to help.
Our support from Fran gave us specific knowledge around parents who misuse alcohol and the impact that has on young people. More specifically, Fran knew Dannii very well as a person . Fran had managed to engage Dannii in one to one sessions where she completed heartfelt work with Dannii, providing advice and clarity on how she could reduce risk to herself and to identify patterns in her behaviour.
Alongside Fran’s direct support with Dannii, she also guided us on how to support her and her expectations of the relationship between her and her family member. Dannii seemed to develop an understanding of how alcohol impacted her loved one and changed the approach towards her relationship with this family member.
Her expectations were changed, meaning their relationship changed to become more positive.
Working with Dannii, Fran helped educate her, and supported the team to have both proactive and reactive strategies in place to minimise harm. While she would still use alcohol, she did so in a way that did not put her at increased risk. She kept herself safe and was aware that it was important to minimise harm. Only someone who knew this young person would understand how significant this was in itself.
It can be daunting for a team to support a young person with complex difficulties, including alcohol misuse, which puts them at risk. We always want to do all we can to stop it. Having an alcohol and substance misuse specialist advisor like Fran meant we were able to put in place a personalised, proactive and responsive plan in place for Dannii, which was successful for her. Anyone can go on a website to get advice, but having that expert on hand was so beneficial, for Dannii and for the team.
Overall it was reassuring to know that alcohol use by our young people is taken seriously, and we are fortunate to have specialist support that goes above and beyond to support the staff, managers, and young people in our services.
I know I speak for our young person and staff team when I say we couldn’t have provided such a long term stable placement for Dannii if it wasn’t for the overview of the substance misuse specialist. Even when writing this statement I liaised with staff on shift who told me how lucky we are to have such a team supporting us with our young people.
Dannii, because of the improved relationship and better understanding of her behaviour, was able to leave care and move back home. While Danni still occasionally uses cannabis, she no longer uses alcohol and has repeatedly said she does not want to depend on it.