On the night of the 13th of February 2015, I received a knock on my door from the police, advising me that my brother had been killed in a road accident and could I go and identify the body. At that moment my world collapsed.
Having known that my brother had alcohol dependency issues it soon transpired that he was over the limit at the time of the crash. From the night I lost my brother the heart was ripped out of my family and there are many questions that will never be answered.
Moving forward five years and I was asking the Leader of the House of Commons about the implementation of a National Addiction Strategy and led to me becoming the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm. I don’t want to talk about prohibition or temperance, as I enjoy a pint myself, I just want to make sure that help is there for those that need it so that no one else receives a knock on the door like I did.
Whilst the Government have said that they are working on an addiction strategy, this has been amid the pandemic and I fear little to no progress has been made during that time.
In recent years, as a society we have overcome the stigma of mental health, but addiction still attracts a stigma. Often seen as a link to criminality and drugs or as a personal choice, this isn’t the case. This is a serious health issue which can and does cost lives and we need a meaningful plan to address this.
During the pandemic we’ve seen a 20% increase in alcohol related deaths, an increase in domestic abuse with alcohol a common accelerant, more instances of alcohol poisonings and alcohol related injuries and these are only the figures that we’re aware of.
It’s taken me a long time to tell my personal lived experience of alcohol, only telling it to the APPG for the first time earlier this year. And now after a recent interview with ITV which was aired last week, it’s important that we get these real-life experiences out into society to de-stigmatise the issue and get help where it’s needed.
We will continue to work on our alcohol strategy showing the impact on individuals, families, communities, and society. Hopefully once completed this will be adopted and acted on by central Government.