IT’S not unusual to be worried or concerned about a friend, or family member.
But when this worry affects day-to-day life, or relationships become tense, help can be found elsewhere.
This week, volunteers and service users alike welcomed the arrival of The Families and Friends Network, set up to help people affected by someone else’s drinking or drug use.
Urging people not to ‘suffer in silence’, trained volunteers, experienced in dealing with drink and drug problems will offer advice and support.
Volunteers Elaine Hetter and Judith Stratton said it can be lonely trying to cope with problems on your own.
“These things can affect anyone, of all ages,” said Judith.
“People are under more pressure in all sorts of ways these days. Many find that on top of the stresses of everyday life, added problems with family or friends might mean they really need to talk.
“It might be that you’ve found your son growing cannabis in his bedroom. Or your partner might have a drinking problem. Or your best friend is out of control. Every case is different.”
The centre is now one of a number of networks around West Sussex – Bognor Regis has a particularly strong group, with many who rely on the sessions every month.
Chichester resident Sarah* regularly attends the Bognor group but said it will be ‘really helpful’ to have a meeting place in the city.
“You do have to have a service like this as a back up, when things get on top of you,” she said.
“I don’t really need the service anymore. Actually, I do need it.
“It is a service that fills the gap when you need to tell someone something you can’t tell any one else.
“You can tell someone not involved with your life, someone objective.”
Coordinator of The Families and Friends Network, Jane Brown, said the group was ‘entirely flexible’.
“The format of the sessions depends entirely on what people want,” she said.
“We just want to let people know we are here, and provide a service that has no stigma. We are not here to judge.”
Jane also praised the work of the ‘brilliant’ volunteers and thanked them for giving up their time, as the support they give is ‘amazing’.
Christine Field, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for public protection, said: “I would whole-heartedly urge anyone affected by these issues to seek help. It isn’t just the person struggling with substance misuse who needs help, but friends and family and we must not forget them.”
Run by West Sussex County Council, support sessions take bplace at The Children and Family Centre, in St James’ Road, Chichester, on the third Wednesday of every month, between 1pm and 3pm.
For more details visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/daat or phone 01243 382641.
n Names marked with an * in this article have been changed to protect service users.