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Mental Distress and the Criminal Justice System: Experiences of dealing with alcohol addiction

Posted on 14, November 2019

For Alcohol Awareness Week 2019 we’re sharing some further instalments of our Mental Distress and Criminal Justice film series. These films feature people who have used or volunteered with Together services who have experienced mental distress and who have also struggled with an alcohol dependency which has negatively impacted on their lives.  The films share the stories behind why people struggle with addiction and how that contributed to them coming into contact with the criminal justice system. The films show how alcohol can be used as an escape or feel like a ‘best friend’ but the people featured in the films also explain how support has helped them to develop coping strategies to be in a better place today. Both of the people who star in the films now work within peer support at Together and they are providing their informed and empathetic support to others through their lived experience.

Luke’s story

Luke describes how from when he was a child alcohol played a big part in his family life as his father was an alcoholic who had been abusive towards his mother and they separated when he was 5 years old. His mother also drank to deal with her problems and Luke found himself struggling to cope with the adverse experiences he’d had as a child and used alcohol as an escape from those. The only times Luke came into contact with the criminal justice system was when he was under the influence of drink or drugs and he was close to going to prison a few times but he felt he was dealt with fairly. He explains how he was helped by two organisations to detox and to receive mental health support through counselling and group therapy. He is now looking to work as a peer supporter for Together using his own experiences of mental distress to provide a unique and informed perspective and inspiration to anyone else experiencing mental distress.

Christine’s story

Christine shares her story and explains how she had felt isolated when she moved to the UK from Jamaica with her father to live with his new family. To help deal with those feelings as well as being cold and struggling to sleep, her father had advised her to drink some whiskey and as a result she developed a dependency on alcohol to cope. The situation became worse when Christine began to hear voices and she realised that her mental health was a factor in her experience.

Christine came into contact with the criminal justice system when she was arrested for shoplifting after trying to steal alcohol from shops to support her addiction. She explains how she felt she was perceived by the police and how in hospital she was detoxed but not offered much explanation. It was a visit to the GP that helped Christine bring about change and she reached out to a drug and alcohol service after taking a leaflet. She now works for Together as a Peer Support Coordinator using her own experience of mental distress and overcoming adversity to empower others to share their stories to help anyone else who may be struggling.