12th June, 2018

Adults and families across the Northern Trust area, who are experiencing issues because of drug or alcohol misuse in their lives, are being encouraged to avail of a new series of ‘open door’ advice sessions being offered by leading social justice charity, Extern.

Starting each Monday, from 18th June onwards, staff in Extern’s Ballymena Office, which can be found at 106 Bridge Street in the town, are encouraging people to stop by and seek help with any issues they may be having in relation to alcohol or substance misuse. Extern’s support is available for people in relation to their own use of alcohol or substances & also that of loved ones.

The confidential, one-to-one advice sessions, are running between 10am and 3pm each Monday. During the sessions, Extern will help people discover what supports are available to them from within Extern, as well as other organisations and services within the Northern Trust area.

Telephone support
Extern’s Ballymena-based team provide supports for people living across the Northern Trust area, including the towns and surrounding areas of Antrim, Ballycastle, Ballymena, Bushmills, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Cookstown, Crumlin, Larne, Maghera, Magherafelt, Newtownabbey, Portrush, Portstewart, Randalstown, Tobermore, & Pomeroy.

For those who cannot make it into the Ballymena office to seek advice, Extern are also making staff available to speak to callers from those areas on the telephone. People can avail of the telephone service from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, by telephoning the Extern team on 028 25 654012.

Five experienced counsellors, and four support workers from Extern, are available to work with individuals or families living in the Northern Trust area, who may have concerns around substance misuse in their lives, or that of a loved one.

Speaking about the new initiative, Liz McCormick, Assistant Manager, with Extern in Ballymena, said: “Every week, whether it be in Pomeroy and Magherafelt, or Coleraine and Carrickfergus, we are seeing the very real difference made by the support we offer. Unfortunately, however, so many people who are experiencing issues with drugs or alcohol don’t know where to even begin to turn for help, either for themselves or members of their family.

We also see that often they sometimes feel embarrassed about seeking support as they believe there is a stigma attached to opening up about the issues they are experiencing, or they fear that it could result in their family being split up.

“Extern want to reassure people that there is no stigma, and that there should never be fear in seeking confidential help. Therefore we are encouraging people to lift the phone, or to call in to us in Ballymena during our Monday advice sessions, and start to get support around the issues they are living with.

“We cover all levels of need, and we are keen to let people know that that they don’t need to deal with their problems behind closed doors. We are here to listen and to support, and after providing life-changing services for 40 years, Extern does not judge. We are here to help, whether that is around your own drug or alcohol use, or that of another adult you are concerned about. Lifting the phone or calling into our advice sessions could be the first-step in beginning to make the changes they wish to see in their lives or those of a loved one.”

Anyone can refer themselves or someone they know to Extern, and Extern will follow-up in confidence with that individual. If people wish to engage with the service, they are then invited to come for a one-to-one chat, and the team at Extern will work alongside them to devise a programme of support.

Liz McCormick, added: “We deal with people on a one-to-one basis and it is totally confidential. No information is passed onto other family members or friends. And if it is not your drinking or substance misuse, but someone else’s who is impacting upon you, we can still give you support and counselling. For example, a parent may have concerns about an adult child, and even if their child does not want to receive support, we can still support the parent or parents.”

Some of the services offered by Extern include five Extended Brief Interventions with approaches including: Guided Self Help, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and Relapse Management Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Family support, as well as an initial support/education session to signpost and provide solution-focused support, followed up with 50 minutes of psycho-education support.

The Extern team is also offering support on a harm reduction basis to people whose personal misuse of alcohol or substances is resulting in a higher level of need, yet who may not wish to change their current usage levels of alcohol or substances.

If this is the case, the team in Extern can help provide supports around a number of areas including housing benefits, assistance with attending health appointments, and advocating to partner agencies on a person’s behalf, and also to that person’s family.

Extern offers its services in people’s home, or a venue people feel comfortable in, and do not expect people to travel to an office.

If you, or anyone you know is interested in finding out more about what support is available to them, they can drop in to the Extern team on Monday’s from 10am to 3pm, at 106 Bridge Street, Ballymena, starting from Monday, 18 June, or telephone the team on 028 654012.