By Chavi Sufrin

Chavi Sufrin

Chavi Sufrin, Crisisline manager, Drugsline

Drugsline has helped to turn so many lives around, according to Chavi Sufrin BSc (Hons), PGDip, who started as a volunteer at the charity 10 years ago.

Now a counsellor trained in psychology and child and adolescent psychotherapy and with experience in working within a range of drug and alcohol services, Crisis Line Manager Chavi Sufrin reveals why the service, which is now run by Norwood, is still so desperately needed.

BACK IN 2012, with Drugsline facing closure, we had around 50 trained volunteers, but our service was still oversubscribed.

We knew that without us, the provision wouldn’t be there. It was a worrying time. Just when we thought we’d have to close our doors, Norwood approached us and we ran the service as a pilot.

Now we’re a fully-fledged part of Norwood and are looking forward to training more volunteers and growing the service so we can carry on serving our community.

And the need for the service is growing. When Drugsline started 22 years ago, most people’s concerns were about alcohol use and drugs. Now it’s likely that they’ll be worried about other addictions, such as gambling.

We use a three-pronged approach to deliver our service – education, outreach and our drop-in-centre. We want schools and the community to be well-informed about the risks involved with drugs and alcohol, and to be aware of what addiction can lead to.

We also want to get the message out that if you do need help, there’ll always be someone there. No one should have to suffer alone. We reach out to leading lay and religious leaders in the community and teachers and GPs, empowering them to tackle the issues head on.

The biggest advantage of Drugsline being a part of Norwood is that we’re linked to a network of family services. Addictions don’t happen in isolation and they have a huge impact on family life.

If mum and dad are arguing at home, perhaps because of alcohol issues, then the children will suffer and it will affect them at school. Now we can refer them to a source of support, or help them to address their fears and frustrations through art or drama therapy.

Some children in London are only eight when they are offered drugs for the first time so, in many cases, drug education in secondary school comes too late. We deliver sensitive, age-appropriate drugs education to older children in primary schools too.

There are a lot of misconceptions around drugs in schools. Most parents think they have an idea of what a drug dealer looks like – an older teenager in a hoodie hanging around the school gates.

But the reality is that the person most likely to offer their child drugs is a classmate or a friend – someone the same age, wearing the same school uniform.
As drug use increases in the wider world, so too do the risks for young people within the Jewish community.

The ‘Just Say No’ approach failed. Instead, we equip young people with the tools they need to assess the risks and make up their own minds. We don’t just give young people cold, clinical facts – we bring our workshops to life by introducing young people to a frontline drugs worker, or someone who has experienced addiction, and encourage them to ask as many questions as they like. Knowledge is power!

As well as drugs and alcohol misuse, we’re seeing a rise in people coming to us for help or advice about other kinds of addictions, again
reflecting their prevalence within the wider community.

Whereas before, people had to go into a betting shop to gamble, now it’s a simple case of downloading an app on your mobile phone. It’s no wonder that problem gambling is on the rise in the Jewish community as well.

Only about half of the people who come to our drop-in service are struggling with addiction themselves. The other half are mums, dads, grandparents, friends or spouses, who come to help someone they care about.

Whether they want a quick chat, a few questions answered or help to find rehabilitation services, we can help.

We understand that in a tight-knit community, people talk. Our staff are trained to uphold the highest standards of confidentiality.

Because of the stigma around addiction, in the Jewish as well as in the wider community, it often takes a lot for someone to come to us for help – and we never forget this.

• Norwood Drugsline runs a free confidential drop-
in service at the Kennedy Leigh Family Centre in
Hendon, offering information and advice every
Thursday between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. For advice over the telephone, call 020 8809 8810, leave a
message and we will call back as soon as possible.