Emotional speech earns praise from the First Minister
Monica Lennon reveals family heartache
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