Home > Twenty-First Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope.

Lynn, Ena (2020) Twenty-First Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 73, Spring 2020, 16 p..

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The National Family Support Network (NFSN)1 is an autonomous self-help organisation that provides support to families and respects the experiences of families affected by substance misuse in a welcoming non-judgemental atmosphere. On Saturday, 1 February 2020, the NFSN held its 21st Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sean MacDermott Street, Dublin. This spiritual, multidenominational service is held in remembrance of loved ones lost to substance misuse and related causes and to publicly support and offer hope to families living with the devastation that substance misuse causes. Those in attendance included Ms Catherine Byrne TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy; Comdt Caroline Burke, aide-de-camp to An Taoiseach; Mary Lou McDonald TD; Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin, and other religious representatives; as well as family members, friends, and many people working in the area of substance misuse. Music was provided by soprano Nickola Hendy and Cathal Holland.

Work of the NFSN

In her address to the gathering, Sadie Grace, coordinator of the NFSN, spoke directly to family members in attendance, who are living with the effects of drug abuse on a daily basis. She stated that the NFSN stand in solidarity with them, stressing that they are not alone in their grief.

While acknowledging more work is required to help prevent drug-related deaths and to support families affected by drug use, she highlighted the NFSN’s many achievements, including advocating strongly for accurate figures on drug-related deaths, which had culminated in the establishment of the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) in 2005; development of initiatives to address drug intimidation; setting up the first addiction-specific bereavement support counselling service; supporting research into the impact of familial addiction and drug-related deaths on the health of family members affected; advocating for the rollout of the naloxone programme, which was set up to help reverse the effects of opioid overdose through training, in recognition and response to overdose due to opioids, in addition to appropriate administration of naloxone.

She acknowledged the assistance given by Archbishop Martin in helping the NFSN support families financially with funeral costs. Closing her address, Sadie urged family members to look after themselves, to avail of support, and to acknowledge that they deserve to be supported.

Impact of drug misuse and drug-related deaths

In her address, Minister Byrne emphasised the ongoing valuable work of the NFSN. She highlighted the recognition of family members as service users in their own right and the health-led approach and actions on family support included in the current strategy.2 She extended her sympathy to the bereaved families present and acknowledged that families need services and support to help copy with drug-related issues, including specialised bereavement support but also in dealing with drug-related intimidation and violence.

A testimony by a family member who has found support from the NFSN, highlighted the need for family members to look after their own health. Through engagement with a family support group as a mother, she learnt the importance of self-care, in a non-judgemental, comfortable environment, and that she was not alone in her struggles.

In his address, Archbishop Martin acknowledged the sadness, hope, courage, and solidarity among the gathering and spoke of the lack of respect for life within the drug trade, with children becoming entrapped in the world of drugs by heartless drug lords.

Art competition

This year the NFSN held an art competition with the theme ‘Our Future’ for youth groups within the local and regional drug and alcohol task force areas. The theme of hope was very evident in the entries on display. First prize of €500 went to Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme; second prize of €300 went to Kilrush Youthreach; and third prize of €200 went to Dolphin House homework club.

For many families, this service was the first time that they could openly grieve for loved ones lost to drug use and related causes. Of note, the first commemoration service, 21 years ago, included one family support group based outside of the Dublin area. This year support groups from across Ireland were represented, a stark reminder that drug-related deaths affect families throughout the whole of Ireland.

1. The National Family Support Network can be contacted at 5 Gardiner Row, Dublin 1 on 01 898 0148 or info@fsn.ie or online www.fsn.ie

2. Department of Health (2017) Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/27603/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 73, Spring 2020
May 2020
Page Range
16 p.
Health Research Board
Issue 73, Spring 2020

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