Scott Baxter is a Health Improvement Coordinator with SX and manages our alcohol-related projects and campaigns. We asked Scott to give us an update on his alcohol-related work over the last year, which was funded by the Scotch Whisky Action Fund.
I’m delighted to report a second successful year of alcohol related campaigns, projects and outreach work funded by the Scottish Whisky Action Fund (SWAF). Numerous studies show the disproportionate impact alcohol-related harm has on gay and bisexual men – often tied to health inequalities around issues like mental health and discrimination. This has had wide reaching consequences for men’s sexual, physical and emotional health. The funding from SWAF allows SX to develop a better understanding of the role that alcohol plays in the lives of gay and bisexual men and in turn create innovative tools and improve effective services that support men in relation to problematic drinking.
The emergence of COVID-19 over the last year, and the ensuing lockdown, created additional challenges for our alcohol-related campaigns and outreach work. In agreement with SWAF, many of our campaigns were created through online platforms, such as social media, and our service delivery became digital, using chat apps on our website and video conferencing for 1 to 1 support, as well as traditional phone conversations. At SX we’ve embraced this ‘new normal’ way of working and we endeavour to seek further creative opportunities to engage with our community and service users.
One such opportunity has been the creation of a new digital magazine where we can provide our community with articles on sexual health, alcohol consumption and mental health in a reader friendly format. Issue ONE was released in early July 2020 with articles on the effect COVID-19 has had on our community and how to stay safe under lockdown. Issue Two will be release later in September 2020.
The second year of funding has allowed us to update our website with additions to the Service Finder where information on alcohol related services can now be searched for. We have also created a specific page regarding COVID-19 and alcohol, which contains tips and ideas on how to keep an eye on your drinking during lockdown. Followers to our Instagram page may have seen the Insta Story we published providing tips on how to look after your drinking during lockdown.
A significant addition to our website has been the Alcohol Risk Tool. This risk tool can help you find out if you are risking your health because of the amount of alcohol you are regularly drinking. The tool will help you find out if you need to think about your alcohol use and make any changes for your health and wellbeing.
We’ve also created a booklet, A Brief Guide to the Effects of Alcohol and Party Drugs, that gives information about alcohol and the most common party drugs used by some gay men. You’ll find guidance on recommended alcohol units, the potential harms of drinking and mixing alcohol with drugs. You can also find information about drugs and their effects on HIV medication. The booklet also contains an important guide showing what to do if someone’s had a bad reaction when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
As part of our alcohol related work we’ve created a resource on our website called Bottoms UP: Alcohol Sex and Me!, containing personally written articles by gay and bisexual men who’ve had challenging experiences with alcohol during their life. By creating this page, we hope that readers, who also may have issues, will be able to relate to the events and experiences that the writers have been through. In conjunction with the website, we’ve begun a series of four podcasts with readings of the Bottoms Up writings. Podcast One has just been released.
Over the past year we’ve produced and distributed a variety of media campaigns around the issue of ‘consent’ in relation to alcohol. Readers may have seen the poster campaign in bars and clubs on the Edinburgh gay scene, and accompanying social media posts, taking the form of a graphic novel. This campaign was created to inform gay and bisexual men that being coerced, while under the influence of alcohol, or drugs, is not acceptable and is not consensual.
SX awarded third year of funding from SWAF
Lastly, I’m delighted to report that we have received further funding from SWAF for a 3rd year of campaigns and projects leading on from the success of the previous two years of work. Keep an eye on social media for information on our new campaigns over the next year.