April is alcohol awareness month, and considering many people in Northern Ireland exceed recommended healthy levels, it is a societal issue that continues to challenge government and health policy to stem its rising tide.
Some four in five adult drinkers exceed recommended daily limits in Northern Ireland and the overall misuse of alcohol costs the taxpayer close to £500m per year, being supported by health and social services budgets, the courts and prisons to the police and fire and rescue services.
There are also known links between alcohol misuse and mental ill-health, with the World Health Organisation stating that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill-health.
One local woman Ciara Sharkey tells us how AMH helped her conquer her own journey through alcohol difficulties…
“I cannot believe I am actually writing this story when I think back to the first day I came through the doors of AMH. Basically I had been living in hell for three long hears, constantly fighting these demons in my head and my only relationship I had at the time was with the bottle.
I visited the GP on a regular basis and had my medication changed a lot. I was referred to Woodlea House to be detoxed and receive on to one counselling with the alcohol.
My anxiety was at the point it couldn’t have got any higher on the scale I had no intention of ever broadening my horizons. It was then my counsellor in Woodlea House suggested a visit to Foyle New Horizons; I had never felt so much fear running through my body as I did that day. I wstarted New Horizons in August 2016 and I was based in the craft and woodwork departments. I was very aware of all these new people and petrified of anybody trying to start conversations with me. My key worker Albert reassured me on a daily basis and helped a lot, working on my confidence, self-esteem and reducing my alcohol intake.
I started day by day feeling less anxious as I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one who had alcohol and mental health issues. I completed a vast amount of OCN courses. I then started to feel more comfortable throughout the building and started working in the catering department and thrived on the experience I was receiving. I was asked to cover reception at tea time breaks and that alone boosted my confidence immensely.
Albert then suggested I talk to the employment officer about a placement. Fear, anxiety and panic appeared again – but not for long as Valerie suggested a playgroup for children with special needs. I jumped at the chance and fear turned into happiness and excitement. This was an amazing opportunity for me to have the pleasure of working with children.
I now attend the playgroup once a week and I absolutely love it I intend to increase my days to one morning and one afternoon every week. I finally feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life, at happiness and a real desire to be here again.
Foyle New Horizons was the best decision I’ve ever made and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The staff and keyworkers are so supportive and helpful so I just want to thank them so much for everything.”
AMH New Horizons project is part-funded by the NI European Social Fund Programme 2014-202 and the Department for the Economy.