Supporting families & reducing stigma

“You’re not on your own.” That’s the message BCYF (Barwon Child Youth & Family) wants local families to know on International Family Drug Support Day, on February 24.

Family Drug Support Day is an annual event that first began in 2016 to draw attention to the families affected by alcohol and/or other drugs, including recognising and promoting the benefits of supporting families.

BCYF’s Manager Alcohol & Other Drugs (AOD) & Mental Health Services, Josie Taylor said BCYF’s services aim to reduce the stigma and highlight the need for families to be recognised, heard and supported.

“Most families are so ashamed because they think they are the only ones this is happening to. That’s because there is a stigma with drug use and this is still something we don’t talk freely about,” Ms Taylor said.

“On International Family Drug Support Day, we want to highlight that if you have concerns about your own alcohol or drug use, or that of a family member, you’re not on your own.”

BCYF provide a range of supports for local families impacted by the alcohol and or drug use of a child, parent or other family member.

“BCYF are funded to work with 900 individuals and families across our AOD programming every year. This means parents or friends concerned about the drug or alcohol use of a young person or other adult can contact us and access a range of services such as counselling, outreach support, case management and other therapeutic services. It is really important that the community know this type of information, education and support is available, and people access it every day.” Ms Taylor added.

BCYF Family AOD Clinician, Karyn Kehagias, is part of BCYF’s dedicated Specialist Family Intervention Program that aims to help families feel supported, confident and equipped to communicate around drugs and alcohol.

“My role is to support families and help build family cohesion,” said Karyn.

“That might mean providing information and education, family counselling, linking it to other services, but also providing advice and support on how family members can look after themselves,” she explained.

Families reaching out to BCYF AOD services are many and varied, ranging from parents concerned about a young person through to older people with concerns about their adult child or even grandchild.

“Most people contact BCYF AOD support services because they are worried about a loved one and want them to help them to access support, but often they don’t realise they need support too. They need to look after themselves as well,” explained Karyn.

“Just recently I had an uncle asking us about who he can contact to help his niece. We talked through the stages of change and where she was at and who she could contact for support. We also let him know about the supports available for him too.”

A week later the uncle called back seeking support for himself. His niece had been referred into an intervention program and he needed help understanding her plan, the language around it and how he could help.

BCYF recognises the importance of supporting the family network when helping people experiencing issues with substances to make changes.

And according to Karyn there have been some unexpected benefits of two years of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

“At the start of COVID-19 there was an increased level of anxiety as parents noticed behaviours and substance use they were not aware of before. For some families coming through this has led to better communication. Although it’s been really difficult for a lot of people, for others it has enhanced relationships as families have found new way to connect and understand each other.”

BCYF’s AOD services operate in partnership with other drug and alcohol support providers through the region to support children, young people and families seeking alcohol and other drug support.

For information, consultation, counselling or support, contact BCYF’s AOD team on 1300 022 293 or email

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