Women who seek alcohol and other drug (AOD) services often encounter severe barriers and discrimination that negatively impact their recovery process. For mothers, the stigma and guilt associated with drug dependence can make treatment an even more confronting and challenging experience.
St Kilda Sharks Women’s Football Club has thrown their support behind UnitingCare ReGen’s work assisting women affected by alcohol and other drug use. For some women, substance use is a coping strategy to deal with the physical and psychological impacts of trauma. Sharks president Keryn Ralph said a variety of social issues interweave to impact women’s wellbeing.
“The experience of family or sexual violence, our cultural obsession with women’s appearance and everyday sexism or discrimination based on gender or sexual identity affects even the strongest women and can be a driver for mental health concerns and alcohol and other drug use,” Ms Ralph said.
“If you, or someone you care about, are struggling with alcohol or other drugs, services like ReGen can help. ReGen’s services are free, confidential and will help get your life back on track.”
ReGen CEO Laurence Alvis thanked the Sharks for their support and said it is an important step towards improving accessibility for women seeking AOD services.
“Support like this from the Sharks really helps increase awareness of our services and make it easier for women to get help when they need it,” Mr Alvis said.
“Our association with the club provides a tremendous opportunity to reduce alcohol and other drug-related harm and promote health and wellbeing.”
ReGen hosted an International Women’s Day event on 8 March, where attendees heard first-hand accounts of how stigma and discrimination can discourage women from seeking help. Participants also discussed how to make services more accessible for women. This included providing more gender-specific services, greater numbers of women in AOD sector leadership roles, increased consumer participation, stronger links with sexual assault services and the need to recognise women’s strengths instead of framing them as victims.
“We know that the responsibilities of parenting and the impacts of stigma, guilt and shame have particular impacts in women’s lives and can create both motivation to change and barriers to seeking help,” Mr Alvis said.
“There is a clear need for improving the accessibility of treatment and support programs for women and to ensure that services provide women and their families with safe, welcoming and effective responses to their needs.”
ReGen runs a range of programs to support women seeking AOD services. This includes a playgroup for parents and carers of pre-school children. It is specifically designed to support families coping with substance use, social isolation, family violence and mental illness.
A new ‘Mother and Baby’ withdrawal service is currently under construction at ReGen’s Ivanhoe centre and is due to open later this year. This purpose-built facility will improve the accessibility of alcohol and other drug treatment for women with babies up to 12 months of age and increase their safety and wellbeing while mothers undertake withdrawal.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure that our services are there for women when they need help and provide a holistic response to the many, interrelated factors that affect women’s wellbeing and quality of life,” Mr Alvis said.
“We’re doing what we can, but we need help reaching out to women throughout our communities.”