Health / Gap identified in support for young people affected by parental substance use

NHS Shetland’s alcohol and drug development officer Wendy McConnachie. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

A PIECE of work is underway to understand the gap in support for children and young people in Shetland affected by someone else’s substance use.

NHS Shetland’s alcohol and drug development officer Wendy McConnachie said it is “unclear if that gap is in terms of a whole service, or resource within existing services, or if it is about upskilling within existing services”.

The local alcohol and drug partnership is working to understand where the gap lies.

Anyone who is looking for support for their child can get in touch with their school, school nurse or Mind Your Head if aged over ten.

Meanwhile she also told a meeting of Shetland’s integration joint board last week that moves are being made to increase the provision of overdose medication naloxone in the community.

It is hoped that naloxone will be available from community pharmacies in the future.

More front line staff have also been naloxone trained and now carry it for use in an emergency.


The medicine, which temporarily reverses an opioid overdose and can come in a nasal spray or injection, is already available at the Substance Misuse Recovery Service at Lerwick Health Centre (01595 743006) and the Recovery Hub on the town’s Pitt Lane (01595 744402).

Naloxone kits are available to anyone who is at risk of an opioid overdose themselves, or people who may come across an overdose. They are also used by the police.

McConnachie spoke at the integration joint board meeting last Thursday to provide an update on the local alcohol and drug partnership’s work in 2021/22.

One highlight, she said, was the positive feedback from events marking International Overdose Awareness Day.

This included a remembrance event at the flower park in Lerwick, where people could light a candle in memory of a loved one lost to alcohol or drug use.

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The meeting heard one piece of feedback from someone who lost their mum to a drugs overdose when they were young.

“They said that the way their mum died wasn’t to be spoken about, because there was so much stigma,” McConnachie said.

“She felt that this provided an opportunity for her now to speak about it.

“Another person recalled how they felt when they lost their brother to a drugs overdose.

“They said they didn’t feel permitted to grieve.

“So they hugely appreciated the opportunity to attend the remembrance event and have a space and place to remember and grieve.

“Both said events like this are really important in challenging stigma around substance use.”

Board member Natasha Cornick, meanwhile, asked what people can do to assist those with alcohol or drug issues in the community.

McConnachie said the “big thing is around stigma, around kindness and compassion”.


She said stigma is a barrier to people seeking support and can be detrimental to people in recovery in small communities.

The development officer added that issues with alcohol and drugs can affect anyone.

But she said there is a “double stigma” in terms of alcohol – for those who drink heavily, and those who do not drink at all.

“Alcohol use is so normalised. It’s so integral to so many events and occasions,” McConnachie said.

“I speak about the three As of alcohol in terms of availability, accessibility and acceptability.

“Reducing those three As would go some way to towards reducing alcohol related harms and that is something that we can all play a part in, that and in modelling our behaviours to younger generations.”

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