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Lockdown is raising concerns of an increase in substance misuse

Barod, a Welsh substance misuse charity, has launched a unique webchat facility to help people who are at risk of turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the mental health effects of lockdown.

The service has also experienced significant demand from concerned others – people who were not aware of their loved one’s drug or alcohol problems until lockdown saw them spending more time together.

The new service – the first of its kind for substance misuse in Wales – is operated by Barod’s trained case workers who can provide support, including brief interventions, to address problem behaviour before it escalates. This is different to helplines operated by other charities that can only refer people to services provided elsewhere.

As an online service, the webchat facility is available Wales-wide from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday; and between 11am and 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. To use the service, simply visit Barod’s homepage at https://barod.cymru/, and click on the chat tab in the bottom-right corner (desktop) or bottom of the screen (mobile/tablet).

Credit: Barod

Caroline Phipps, chief executive officer of Barod, said, “We have seen a spike in referrals in recent weeks, after they initially dipped in the early stages of lockdown. But with lockdown now part of our daily lives, loneliness, and the mental health impact of living through a pandemic, have seen people falling back into old habits that they’d done well to control previously, and others are turning to substances in an effort to self-medicate.

“As a charity that specialises in addressing substance misuse and getting people back onto an even keel, we had to move quickly to ensure that the people who need us can still access our services effectively and safely. This is why we’ve invested in developing a webchat facility through which our trained case workers can provide help directly to those in need.

“We are also seeing a lot of ‘concerned others’ turning to us to try and find ways to help a loved one who is struggling to cope. This also happened pre-lockdown of course, but cases of people contracting us on behalf of someone else have increased significantly as people spend more time together in lockdown, making habits harder to conceal.”

Caroline added, “It’s important now, more than ever, that people realise that there is help available to them. So, if you’re suffering and finding it hard to avoid old habits, or are turning to alcohol or drugs to help you cope, please reach out to one of our case workers. You can speak to them anonymously and they have helped many others going through similar things. You may be worried, anxious or lonely, but you are not alone.”

John Griffiths, MS for Newport East, said, “The lockdown measures have been a challenging time for many of us in Wales – but I want to thank everyone for showing the discipline they have done over the last couple of months. If you are struggling, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help and that’s why Barod’s webchat services will be very important.

“If you personally or if you know a family member or friend who is at risk of turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with the mental health effects of lockdown, please contact Barod. The best way of getting through these difficult times is by helping and supporting one another.”

Professor Kelechi Nnoaham, Cwm Taf Morgannwg Area Planning Board Chair, said, “During these unprecedented times Cwm Taf Morgannwg Area Planning Board are pleased to see our substance misuse service providers adapting to the new circumstances we are faced with. The live webchat is just one example of the new ways of working that Barod has introduced to manage and maintain engagement with our vulnerable groups across Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf.”

For for information on Barod’s services, including their approach during COVID-19, visit: https://barod.cymru/