Emo­tional speech earns praise from the First Min­is­ter

Mon­ica Len­non re­veals fam­ily heartache

Hamilton Advertiser - - NEWS - Ste­fanie Mccourt

A Hamil­ton politi­cian was praised by Ni­cola Stur­geon af­ter an emo­tional speech dur­ing First Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions.

Cen­tral Scot­land MSP Mon­ica Len­non asked what the Scot­tish Govern­ment’s re­sponse was “to the sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of deaths re­lated to drug and al­co­hol mis­use in the last year” dur­ing the ses­sion at Holy­rood last Thurs­day (Septem­ber 7).

The Labour rep­re­sen­ta­tive drew upon per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­plain­ing that her own fa­ther, Ger­ard Ward, had sadly passed away fol­low­ing a bat­tle with al­co­hol.

She said: “Liv­ing with ad­dic­tion is not easy to speak about, but that has to change, be­cause re­cov­ery and sup­port ser­vices can­not help peo­ple if they feel too ashamed to ac­cess them.

“Too of­ten, fam­i­lies only break their si­lence about drug and al­co­hol harm af­ter they have buried their loved ones. I know that be­cause, two years ago, my dad died as a re­sult of al­co­hol harm.

“In 2016, Scot­land reached an un­ac­cept­able 10-year peak, with 2,132 peo­ple dy­ing as a re­sult of al­co­hol and drugs mis­use. We have a long way to go.

“I ask the First Min­is­ter to join me in send­ing a mes­sage to ev­ery­one in Scot­land af­fected by drug and al­co­hol harm that they mat­ter, that they are not to blame, and that they are de­serv­ing of sup­port.”

Clearly moved, Ms Stur­geon re­sponded: “I thank Mon­ica Len­non for rais­ing that is­sue. I also pay trib­ute to her courage, given her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, in stand­ing up in the cham­ber to­day and rais­ing is­sues that are of­ten deeply per­sonal to peo­ple but hugely im­por­tant to our so­ci­ety as a whole.

“Mon­ica Len­non is ab­so­lutely right. First and fore­most, we must see those who suf­fer from ad­dic­tion as hu­man be­ings.

“We must treat such is­sues from a pub­lic health per­spec­tive first and fore­most, and that is what our re­newed strat­egy will seek to do.”

Ms Len­non told the Ad­vertiser she hoped by speak­ing about her own ex­pe­ri­ence, oth­ers would seek the sup­port they need.

She said: “The stigma and si­lence which sur­rounds al­co­hol ad­dic­tion can be suf­fo­cat­ing. Too of­ten, those of us who have known some­one with an al­co­hol ad­dic­tion don’t speak up about it un­til their loved one has passed away.

“With drug and al­co­hol deaths ris­ing across La­nark­shire in re­cent years, more must be done to tackle the stigma that pre­vents peo­ple from ac­cess­ing the sup­port they need.

“Re­cov­ery ser­vices need in­vest­ment and re­form, along­side a cul­ture change with how we view and talk about ad­dic­tion.

“I hope that speak­ing out about my dad and my own ex­pe­ri­ence will en­cour­age oth­ers to know that they’re not alone, and that they de­serve to get the help they need.”

Too of­ten, fam­i­lies only break their si­lence about drug and al­co­hol harm af­ter they have buried their loved ones

Sup­port Ms Len­non was praised by the First Min­is­ter

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