People with substance misuse problems face 'lack of mental health support'

Our new report found people with substance misuse problems are stuck in a vicious circle, as many can't access mental health support. Healthwatch has been advised a Local Authority task group will now look at addressing our concerns.
addiction and mental health NS report

Our Mental Health Support For People In Recovery For Substance Misuse report found that many respondents in North Somerset found it nearly impossible to get help for their mental health problems because of their addictions.

Figures from Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs or ACMD  show that 70 per cent of people in England with drug misuse problems and 86 per cent of those with alcohol misuse issues have mental health problems. However, despite this, we found people could not easily get help with their 'dual diagnosis' and as a result struggled to recover. 

Our focus groups and survey found that many people had also been treated differently because of their addiction by professionals (74 per cent). 

Well one thing is they won’t do a mental health diagnosis until you stop drinking, but you are drinking because you have such bad mental health, so that’s a real problem.
— Respondent to our survey
Addaction (We Are With You) service is a life saver. GP will not refer (to mental health services) as I have an addiction. I feel this needs to be changed.
— Respondent who found help with Addaction now We Are With You
We will focus on Mental Health Support for People in recovery, given the recent findings in the Healthwatch report 2020. We are forming a cross-agency mental health task and finish group, which will report to the Health and Wellbeing Board. We look forward to working with Healthwatch in the future.
— Jo Walker, Chief Executive North Somerset Council
Your report has highlighted how important and valued the 'We are with you Service' is to its clients. We also accept there are areas that require improvement particularly in relation to mental health support for those with substance misuse issues.  We are committed to working with our partners in the Clinical Commissioning Group and local mental health services to improve service user experiences
— Matt Lenny, Director of Public Health North Somerset

In total, 30 people took part in the survey. The findings were based on the survey responses and focus group discussions with people with lived-experience.

76 per cent of respondents to our survey said they had relapsed and the main reason for this was not having mental health issues addressed.

80 per cent of respondents also told us they had negative experiences with their GP.

During the focus group discussions for our survey, a common theme was the relationship between addiction, mental health and trauma especially during childhood. For one client, help to understand his childhood experiences also helped recovery from drinking.


1. North Somerset partners should develop, agree, and implement a Dual Diagnosis strategy to address the inequality faced by people with concurrent mental health and substance misuse problems.

2. Ensure that local substance misuse services receive sufficient funds to expand their provision for any individual in North Somerset with substance misuse and low-level mental health problems, to focus on person-centred and informed treatment.

3. Ensure access to NHS commissioned adult mental health services for any individual with dual diagnosis in order to prevent exclusion and offer non-judgmental care based on their needs.

4. Services should provide joined-up (integrated) local support including NHS, voluntary sector, social care services and specialist care providers to provide a support pathway for people with concurrent mental health and substance misuse problems to be able to access housing and employment opportunities.

5. Strengthen the workforce focus on skills, understanding and trauma informed practices to address ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and long-term mental health conditions among the health services.

6. Ensure health and social care professionals workforce training around discrimination and stigma to create a culture of empathy around drug & alcohol dependency.

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